NASA has unveiled its ambitious plan to collect a massive space rock, attach a robotic space craft, and move the rock into orbit around the Earth’s moon. The Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), planned for some time during the 2020s, will allow astronauts to explore the surface of the rock and return with samples.
“NASA has identified multiple candidate asteroids and continues the search for one that could be redirected to near the moon in the 2020s,” the announcement on NASA’s website reads. “Since the announcement of the Asteroid Initiative in 2013, NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observation Program has catalogued more than 1,000 new near-Earth asteroids discovered by various search teams. Of those identified so far, four could be good candidates for ARM. Scientists anticipate many more will be discovered over the next few years, and NASA will study their velocity, orbit, size and spin before deciding on the target asteroid for the ARM mission.”
While the mission is intended as a primer for NASA’s proposed future voyages to Mars, one of the engineer who is working on ARM has drawn comparison with a celestial object from a galaxy far, far away. “It could provide the metals,” Brian Muirhead, Chief Engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who is working on the ARM project, told Wired. “You have organic compounds, you have water—all the building blocks you would need to build your family Death Star.”