- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 25, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) - NASA is going to send a spacecraft to an asteroid and bring back samples to Earth.

The space agency said Wednesday that the unmanned craft won’t land on the asteroid. But it will get close enough to extend a robotic arm and pluck samples from the surface.

NASA plans to launch the spacecraft in 2016. It will return to Earth about seven years later.

Pieces of asteroids known as meteorites constantly break away and make fiery plunges through Earth’s atmosphere. Scientists are interested in studying them to better understand the early solar system.

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden says the mission is a step toward President Barack Obama’s goal to explore deep space.

The mission will cost about $1 billion.

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