Back in June, NASA issued a "Grand Challenge" to catalogue all of the near-Earth asteroids that could potentially threaten life on the planet. As part of the initiative, NASA began soliciting ideas on how to locate, redirect, and explore these asteroids.
The agency received a huge response, with over 400 ideas coming from industry, universities, and the public. NASA is currently reviewing each of the responses, one-third of which relate to the challenge's main request to find threatening asteroids and deal with them.
Today, NASA announced that it has now completed a mission formulation review for internal NASA studies on the topic of a different asteroid mission. NASA leaders at the meeting reviewed the agency's technical concepts for each phase of a mission to put an asteroid into a lunar orbit and send a manned crew to explore it. An asteroid mission concept will now be created by NASA officials based on the current best concepts. The mission, according to NASA, will continue to be developed in the coming year.
"At this meeting, we engaged in the critically important work of examining initial concepts to meet the goal of asteroid retrieval and exploration," said Robert Lightfoot, the chairman of the review and an associate administrator at NASA. "The agency's science, technology, and human exploration teams are working together to better understand near-Earth asteroids, including ones potentially hazardous to our planet; demonstrate new technologies; and to send humans farther from home than ever before. I was extremely proud of the teams and the progress they have made so far. I look forward to integrating the inputs as we develop the mission concept further."
The asteroid mission is part of a NASA plan to send humans to Mars by the 2030s, a challenge set by President Obama. The mission will use technology developed for the Orion space capsule and new SSL rockets.