And just what do you think they’ll do with the damn thing if they actually catch it? From Aviation Week:
NASA’s fiscal 2014 budget request will include $100 million for a new mission to find a small asteroid, capture it with a robotic spacecraft and bring it into range of human explorers somewhere in the vicinity of the Moon.
Suggested last year by the Keck Institute for Space Studies at the California Institute of Technology, the idea has attracted favor at NASA and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. President Obama’s goal of sending astronauts to a near-Earth asteroid by 2025 can’t be done with foreseeable civil-space spending, the thinking goes. But by moving an asteroid to cislunar space — a high lunar orbit or the second Earth-Moon Lagrangian Point (EML2), above the Moon’s far side — it is conceivable that technically the deadline could be met.
The Keck study estimated it would cost about $2.65 billion to bring in a 500,000-kg (1.1 million-lb.) asteroid, using solar-electric propulsion to reach it and a deployable capture bag to enfold a carbonaceous asteroid measuring 7 meters across. Positioned at EML2, the small space rock would be close enough to reach with an Orion crew vehicle launched by a heavy-lift Space Launch System, and would give a crew a real objective for scientific study.
Members of the Keck team that drafted the proposal briefed it to a National Research Council human-spaceflight technical feasibility panel on March 28, noting that the mission would not pose a threat to Earth because the asteroid would have the density of “a dried mudball,” and would come in much more slowly than the slightly larger asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February…
[continues at Aviation Week]