Thursday, April 11, 2013

FY2014 Budget And Asteroid Retrieval

Asteroid retrieval mission concept: Image Credit: NASA/Advanced Concepts Lab

More than two months overdue, the Obama Administration released its FY2014 budget proposal yesterday. The proposed budget is already being picked over from left and right over its priorities and levels of spending and taxes.

The proposed budget for NASA is $17.7 billion, covering a range of programs including human and robotic exploration International Space Station (ISS) and associated commercial crew and cargo resupply, Earth science, aeronautics, technology development, etc. The most intriguing item is a new program to go and retrieve a small asteroid and park it in a stable orbit near or around the Moon, where it could be more easily accessed by astronauts to investigate the object hands-on. This proposal has the support of the two major asteroid mining ventures, Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, provided NASA engages the commercial sector in a major way in carrying out this mission.

Some lawmakers are skeptical about the asteroid retrieval proposal, saying they'd prefer more emphasis on a return to the Moon. Achievement of either of these goals would probably depend on NASA engaging the private sector in a large way, as it has done for ISS cargo resupply and crew transfer, in order to accomplish missions at lower costs in what may be a long term tight fiscal environment.

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