NASA has completed the first step toward a mission to find and capture a near-Earth asteroid, redirect it to a stable lunar orbit and send humans to study it.
In preparation for fiscal year 2014, a mission formulation review on Tuesday brought together NASA leaders from across the country to examine internal studies proposing multiple concepts and alternatives for each phase of the asteroid mission. The review assessed technical and programmatic aspects of the mission.
“At this meeting, we engaged in the critically important work of examining initial concepts to meet the goal of asteroid retrieval and exploration,” said NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot, who chaired the review at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “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.”
In addition to the internal reviews of concepts for the mission, managers also discussed the recently received more than 400 responses to a request for information in which industry, universities, and the public offered ideas for NASA’s asteroid initiative. The agency is evaluating those responses.
With the mission formulation review complete, agency officials now will begin integrating the most highly-rated concepts into an asteroid mission baseline concept to further develop in 2014.
The asteroid redirect mission is included in President Obama’s fiscal year 2014 budget request for NASA, and leverages the agency’s progress on its Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft and cutting-edge technology development. The mission is one step in NASA’s strategy to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.