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NASA Considers Manned Mission to Asteroid

December 31, 2013
By Rachel Lilly
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NASA could send a team of astronauts into space to explore an asteroid located close to the Earth's orbit, according to Harvard University. The NASA Asteroid Robotic Retrieval Mission would involve capturing a near Earth object called NEO 2009BD, dragging it onto a new trajectory that traps it in the Earth-moon system and investigating it. A near Earth object is an asteroid whose orbit brings it close to the Earth's orbit.

This particular asteroid was discovered in January 2009. Its orbit pattern puts the object close to the Earth-moon system again in late 2022, when the proposed mission would take place.

The current mission design requires an asteroid with a diameter of 7 to 10 meters. While initial reports estimate that the asteroid falls into the necessary diameter range, astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics recently presented new conclusions suggesting it may only be 2.9 meters in diameter. The NASA Retrieval Mission team must now determine if it's still suitable for the mission.

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