NASA: We’ve Made Progress on Obama’s Asteroid-Lasso Initiative

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

In April, the Obama administration unveiled its 2014 budget proposal, which included $145.8 billion for agriculture, $520 million for the International Trade Administration, and a bunch of other stuff. It also included a $105-million initiative to lasso an asteroid, tow it toward Earth, place it into the moon’s orbit, and claim the space rock for the United States of America. The idea is to eventually have astronauts travel to the asteroid to conduct mining operations, test technology for missions to Mars, and research strategies for deflecting future world-ending asteroids.

On Thursday, NASA chief Charles Bolden got a good look at the progress being made. The Associated Press reports (emphasis mine):

Bolden checked on…the mission, which may eventually cost more than $2.6 billion. Engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and Glenn Research Center in Ohio are developing a thruster that relies on ion propulsion instead of conventional chemical fuel…NASA is under White House orders to fly humans to an asteroid as a stepping stone to Mars. Instead of sending astronauts to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, as originally planned, the space agency came up with a quicker, cheaper idea: Haul the asteroid close to the moon and visit it there…“If you can’t get to the asteroid, bring the asteroid to you,” Bolden said.

President Obama had previously established a goal of landing astronauts on a near-Earth asteroid by 2025. This plan bumps the date up to 2021. Last month, an administration official with knowledge of the mission filled in some of the details. For one thing, the ambitious lasso-the-asteroid proposal would not increase NASA’s budget; the agency would simply redirect existing funds to the project. And if the audacious-sounding mission goes through, NASA would make a point to only drag small asteroids toward Earth and into lunar orbit. That way, if something does go horribly wrong, the relatively small size of the target asteroid would ensure that the rock is harmless to our planet. Lest there be any confusion: Barack Obama is not going to accidentally throw a killer asteroid at mankind.

Asteroids have enjoyed some time in the political spotlight lately. In March, a Senate panel grilled scientists about the consequences of an asteroid striking earth and the best ways to fight back against ruinous asteroid aggression. That was in response to two high-profile events—an asteroid the size of a city block coming sorta, kinda, maybe close to smashing into Earth, and a truck-sized meteor exploding over Russia’s Chelyabinsk region and injuring roughly 1,500 people.

On a related note, here’s the trailer for Asteroid, a 1997 NBC miniseries about the president of the United States and a FEMA director scrambling to stop asteroids from destroying America:

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate