Just months after the planet was buzzed by a pair of “near-Earth objects,” President Obama’s proposed new budget for NASA is seeking more money to track killer asteroids in the future.
While the space agency’s overall budget request was essentially flat at $17.7 billion, NASA is requesting funds to develop ways to deflect a future asteroid on a collision course with Earth. As outlined in the agency’s budget request, NASA is eyeing robotic missions to identify and land on an asteroid in deep space, nudge the interstellar body into the solar system, and — eventually — set it in orbit around the moon as a research destination for future manned missions.
“The crucial first step in this endeavor is to enhance our ongoing efforts to identify and characterize near-Earth objects for scientific investigation and to find potentially hazardous asteroids and targets appropriate for capture,” Associate Administrator for Science John Grunsfeld said in a statement. “The capture mission will be a highly visible and significant collaboration of robotic and human exploration in translunar space.”
Congress has held two hearings with NASA and private space experts on possible defenses against killer asteroids after a meteor exploded over Russia in February and another asteroid made an unusually close pass by Earth just hours later.