Nasa Plans To Lasso Asteroid Closer To Earth

Nasa is planning to lasso an asteroid and park it near the moon to study as part of a a new ambitious mission, the White House has confirmed.

It might sound like a science fiction movie, but President Obama is expected to put $100 million aside for the asteroid rodeo in next week's budget.

Plans already existed to send astronauts to an asteroid, but the galactic lasso is expected to speed the mission up by bringing the rock closer.

It's hoped that by examining the asteroid, scientists could work out how to mine them for materials and learn more about the mineral composition of the solar system.

It's intended that a robotic spaceship would capture a small asteroid (around 500-tonnes and 25-foot) in 2019, before an orion space capsule would send a team of four to examine the rock.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson who unveiled the plans at a press conference said "It really is a clever concept. Go find your ideal candidate for an asteroid. Go get it robotically and bring it back."

Donald Yeomans, who heads NASA's Near Earth Object programme described how the asteroid would be lassoed with the equivalent of "a baggie with a drawstring." He added "You bag it. You attach the solar propulsion module to de-spin it and bring it back to where you want it."

He also assuaged fears of Armageddon-style apocalypse should the spaceship accidentally send the rock hurtling towards Earth, because the asteroid is so small it will merely burn up upon entering the Earth's atmosphere.

An unnamed official told NBC News "This plan would help us prove we're smarter than the dinosaurs," referring to the asteroid that is thought to have led to their extinction.

A simulation of the DA14 Asteroid, that passed within 17,000 miles of the Earth earlier this year

Although discussions surrounding lassoing such an asteroid had already been in place, the meteor that hit Russia earlier this year cemented plans. The 10-ton meteor that caused chaos and devastation when it exploded over the Ural mountains could have struck Britain if the timing had been slightly different, scientists have said.

More than 1,000 people were injured when the meteor, which was travelling at over 54,000mph, streaked through the atmosphere and created a sonic boom.

A better understanding of space rocks would help Nasa defend the Earth if there was ever a threat.