Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Space Captive NASA Wants to Head off Asteroids by Grabbing One

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Space Captive NASA Wants to Head off Asteroids by Grabbing One

Article excerpt

The famous Perry Como song with its memorable chorus, "Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket / Never let it fade away," may have to be rewritten when NASA finally gets its hands on an asteroid.

Sometime in the early 2020s, NASA will launch into space a robot probe that looks like an oversized Dixie Cup to retrieve a 20-to-30- foot-wide asteroid. The probe will utilize yet-to-be-developed solar- electric propulsion technology and tow the asteroid back to high Earth orbit where it can be safely studied.

Future astronauts will also use the captured asteroid as a staging ground for manned takeoffs and landings, despite the fact that it is relatively small compared to other asteroids that populate the Earth's neighborhood. This is part of an ambitious program by NASA to deal with concerns that asteroids with the potential to harm the planet are being detected relatively late in the game.

An international consensus is forming about the proactive wisdom of developing methods and technology to divert asteroids from a collision course with Earth, instead of waiting to come up with a solution when a threat is on the horizon. …

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