NASA calls on public for ideas to capture, explore asteroid

Deadline for submission is July 18

Published On: Jun 18 2013 02:01:16 PM EDT

NASA cast a wide net today and called for everyone’s ideas on how to accomplish a White House-sanctioned mission to capture an asteroid and send astronauts to explore it.

“We’re looking for ideas and concepts from you about better ways to do this, more efficient ways – things that will actually feed forward to other missions that we want to do in exploration, that we want to do in deep space,” William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human space exploration and operations told Florida Today.

Local 6 news partner Florida Today reports outlined in the Obama Administrations proposed 2014 budget, the mission would involve launching a robotic spacecraft to capture an asteroid and haul it to a stable lunar orbit.

Then, as early as 2021, astronauts would rendezvous with the asteroid and gather samples to bring back to Earth.

NASA sees the expedition as a steppingstone to subsequent missions to the moon, Mars, or other deep space destinations.

Specifically, NASA is looking for ideas in six areas: asteroid observation; asteroid redirection systems; asteroid deflection demonstrations; asteroid capture systems; crew systems for asteroid exploration; and partnerships and participatory engagement.

Gerstenmaier and other senior NASA officials issued the call during an aerospace industry briefing at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Representatives of U.S. aerospace giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin attended the briefing along with principals of smaller start-up companies interested in private-sector missions to mine asteroids for vast stores of natural resources.

But NASA officials went out of their way to open an opportunity for input from “all types of organizations, including U.S. industry, universities, non-profit organizations, NASA Centers, Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, other government agencies, and international organizations,” and the general public.

NASA issued a formal Request For Information through its business opportunities web site.

Deadline for ideas is 5 p.m. July 18. The comments and suggestions will be considered for a NASA internal mission formation review on July 30.