What do you get when you combine cowboy actor Roy Rogers and space explorer Buck Rogers? NASA’s new space cowboy project, which intends to be a $2.6 billion plan to catch a 500-ton asteroid … with a lasso.
Though still waiting for budget approval, the California Institute of Technology and NASA’s jet propulsion center have developed the technology that will allow scientists to catch and send the space equivalent of two double-decker buses into orbit around the moon.
With the retired shuttle program nearly forgotten, the potential of using an asteroid as a base for future space exploration is exciting to see from the U.S. space program. This move is one step closer to the idea of landing astronauts on Mars by 2025.
In the Keck plan, an unmanned probe would snag a 25-foot-wide (7 meters) near-Earth asteroid, then haul it back to lunar orbit for future study and exploration.
Its developers see the mission as a way for humanity to get a toehold beyond low-Earth orbit, allowing our species to hone techniques and acquire skills that manned missions to more distant destinations will require.
If the government won’t fund the Keck plan, perhaps a Keckstarter?
In addition to any potential research findings, this project could make some money, too. According to a report by The Australian:
If approved, the mission could help open up space for private entrepreneurs who have already expressed their intention to search for mineral wealth in asteroids. Earlier this year, James Cameron, the Hollywood director, and the founders of Google announced they wanted to seek platinum and gold from giant rocks buzzing past Earth. They are due to launch their first asteroid-seeking telescope on a rocket next year.
With space mining and deep space exploration on the horizon, why not grow up to be a real space cowboy?