NASA Plans Manned Mission To Asteroid - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

NASA Plans Manned Mission To Asteroid

SPACE.COM - It's a little soon for astronauts to suit up, but NASA is planning to send a manned mission to an asteroid in 2025.

In keeping with President Barack Obama's 2010 vision, the space agency has shifted its sights from returning to the moon and, instead, is aiming for a smaller -- and possibly more dangerous -- rock in space, Space.com reports.

"By 2025, we expect a new spacecraft designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first-ever crewed missions beyond the moon into deep space," Obama said last year at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

So we'll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history. By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth, and a landing on Mars will follow."

At least the first asteroid-bound trip won't follow the script of the 1998 sci-fi adventure "Armageddon." In that scenario, a deep core drilling team, led by Bruce Willis, is sent to a huge asteroid on a collision course with Earth. Their mission: to nuke it before it arrives and causes chaos to our home planet.

While scientists consider ways to avoid a possible future asteroid-Earth collision, they're also figuring out which of the 7,000 known rocky asteroids between Mars and Jupiter might make a suitable landing spot for astronauts.

"Long outbound and inbound trip times are going to be very challenging," said Andy Thomas, a veteran space shuttle astronaut who works for the exploration branch of the Astronaut Office.

"These missions are going to be very, very risky," he added. "They are going to be as much risk as the Apollo missions were. To try and sell it to the public purely on the basis of the scientific return ... would probably not work."

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