NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden (front center) discusses the Asteroid Initiative at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., on May 23, 2013, in one of the laboratories where engineers are testing and developing advanced spacecraft engine technology. The Asteroid Initiative is a proposal to robotically capture a small near-Earth asteroid and redirect it safely to a stable orbit in the Earth-moon system where astronauts can visit and explore it. Behind Bolden, from left to right, are JPLers Brian Muirhead, chief engineer; Firouz Naderi, director of the solar system exploration directorate; John Brophy, electric propulsion engineer; Don Yeomans, manager of the Near-Earth Object Program Office; and Paul Chodas, a scientist with the NEO office. The small circular object just to the right of Muirhead is a model of an ion engine similar to what is being developed for the Asteroid Initiative. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA’s Administrator Charles Bolden visited the Jet Propulsion Laboratory today, where he met with some members of the Asteroid Initiative Team.
With recent near-misses of the Earth and a direct asteroid hit on the moon, the ability to track, deflect and capture asteroids have suddenly become a much higher priority for the Space Agency. The Asteroid Initiative is a recently-announced robotic mission to capture an asteroid in space and bring it into earth orbit where it can be studied.