London: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) scientists are planning to capture a 500,000 kg asteroid, relocate it and transform it into a space station for astronauts to refuel at on their way to Mars.
This will be the first time a celestial object has ever been moved by humans, the Daily Mail reported. The White House’s office of science and technology will consider the $2.6 billion plan in the coming weeks as it prepares to set its space exploration agenda for the next decade.
A feasibility report prepared by Nasa and California Institute of Technology scientists outlined how they would go about capturing the asteroid.
An ‘asteroid capture capsule´ will be attached to an old Atlas V rocket and directed to the asteroid between the Earth and the Moon. Once close, the asteroid capsule will release a bag with diameter of 50 feet to wrap around the spinning rock using drawstrings, the newspaper said. The craft would then turn on its thrusters, using an estimated 300 kg of propellant, to stop the asteroid in its tracks and tow it into a gravitationally neutral spot. From here space explorers will have a stationary base from which to launch trips deeper into space.
NASA declined to comment on the project because it said it was in negotiations with the White House, but it is believed that technology would make it possible within 10-12 years. The technology would also open up the possibility of mining other asteroids for their metals and minerals. Some are full of iron which could be used for in the making of new space stations, others are made up of water which could be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen to make fuel.