Quick look: NASA’s ambitious asteroid grabbing mission

NASA is developing plans for space mission to visit an asteroid

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NASA's FY2014 budget proposal includes a plan to robotically capture a small near-Earth asteroid weighing about 500 tons and redirect it safely to a stable orbit in the Earth-moon system where astronauts can visit and explore it. The mission is still in the early planning stages and NASA will host a workshop at the end of September to discuss potential approaches. Here’s a look at what the agency is planning so far.

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NASA got hundreds of responses to the request for information it issued in June and this week, it said it has narrowed those down to 96 it will consider. NASA is looking for system concepts and innovative approaches to redirecting an asteroid and parking it near the moon for study.

At the same time of the RFI, NASA also issued the latest in its series of Grand Challenges where it dares public and private partnerships to come up with a unique solution to a very tough problem. The asteroid challenge will be a large-scale project "focused on detecting and characterizing asteroids and learning how to deal with potential threats," according to NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver pictured here. The challenge will involve a variety of partnerships with other government agencies, international partners, industry, academia, and citizen scientists, NASA said.

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The Orion spacecraft would be the primary ship used in the asteroid mission. Once in space, the crew would set off on about a nine-day ride to the asteroid.

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This conceptual image shows NASA’s Orion spacecraft approaching the robotic asteroid capture vehicle. The trip from Earth to the captured asteroid will take Orion and its two-person crew an estimated nine days.

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Another conceptual image shows NASA’s Orion spacecraft approaching the robotic asteroid capture vehicle.

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In this image, the two-person crew uses a translation boom to travel from the Orion spacecraft to the captured asteroid during a spacewalk.

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In this image, the two-person crew uses a translation boom to travel from the Orion spacecraft to the captured asteroid during a spacewalk.

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This image shows NASA’s Orion spacecraft approaching the robotic asteroid capture vehicle. The trip from Earth to the captured asteroid will take Orion and its two-person crew an estimated nine days.

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NASA released a video that examines the operations including the Orion spacecraft's trip to and rendezvous with the relocated asteroid, as well as astronauts maneuvering through a spacewalk to collect samples from the asteroid.