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Adm. Bolden discusses NASA's asteroid initiative at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena on May 23, 2013. (Photo courtesy NASA/JPL)

Adm. Bolden discusses NASA’s asteroid initiative at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena on May 23, 2013. (Photo courtesy NASA/JPL)

PASADENA (CBSLA.com) — An ambitious plan to capture a potentially dangerous asteroid and safely relocate it to an orbit around the Moon was the focus of a Southland visit by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on Thursday.

KNX 1070’s Pete Demetriou reports the stop was part of Bolden’s tour this week of three separate NASA centers located throughout California.

After paying a visit to the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base on Wednesday, Bolden made his next stop at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to see a prototype ion thruster being tested for NASA’s mission to capture and relocate an asteroid.

JPL and NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland are developing the ion thruster jointly in an effort that Bolden said goes far beyond simply accomplishing one or two goals for the space agency.

“This mission is not a ‘protect the planet’ mission, this mission is not a science mission, this mission is not a human spaceflight mission,” said Bolden. “What it is is a synergistic effort to try to pull all of that together.”

Researchers hope to use the propulsion system to capture small asteroids and place them in orbit for exploration purposes before the end of this decade, and possibly leverage the technology towards a potentiall manned mission to Mars by 2030.

Bolden will wrap up his California tour on Friday at Moffett Field near Mountain View, where he will visit Ames’ Space Shop to see work being done on PhoneSat nanosatellite technology and additive manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing.

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