PASADENA (CBSLA.com)— In the 1998 blockbuster hit “Armageddon”, a gigantic asteroid on a collision course with Earth was just science fiction.
These days, sending humans to an asteroid may become a reality.
Part of NASA’s budget request for 2014 is to send a robotic spacecraft to “lasso” a 500-ton asteroid and tow it closer to the Earth.
The plan is to have astronauts explore the rock by the year 2025, a goal set by President Barack Obama three years ago.
“The idea is to bring it back to place it in Earth orbit, around the moon actually, to be a stepping stone for humans to explore out into space,” said Dr. Louis Friedman, who led a study at Caltech’s Keck Institute for Space Studies in Pasadena that looked at the feasibility of the mission.
Friedman believes astronauts could see if there are resources on the rock.
He said although the asteroid in the mission would pose no danger to Earth, the space rocks, in general, can be a threat, which is why exploration is important.
“We will increase our capabilities for planetary defense should we ever need it,” Friedman said.
Caltech’s study estimates the mission would cost $2.6 billion.
Although a lot of work and research still needs to be done, a launch can happen by 2017 and astronauts may be able to bring back an asteroid by 2021, according to Friedman.