Roscosmos May Join NASA in Asteroid Capture Mission
April 6, 2013 • 10:45AM

RIA Novosti reports that Russia's space agency Roscosmos may join NASA's ambitious mission to capture an asteroid and place it in high lunar orbit for exploration, as Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin said. "[It is] a very interesting project, which NASA proposes to carry out jointly with Roscosmos specialists," Popovkin said in an interview with Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper to be published on Friday. "We could send a manned expedition to explore the asteroid or study it with probes," he said.

The asteroid-retrieval mission was first proposed last year by the Keck Institute for Space Studies at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. The project envisions capturing a 25-foot (7-meter)-wide object, weighing approximately 500 metric tons, in a giant, draw-string bag, and towing it to the Moon orbit. NASA is reportedly set to ask the U.S. Congress for $100 million in its next budget request to jump-start the project, which could be implemented by 2025. The total cost of the mission is estimated at $2.65 billion, according to Keck researchers.

The Keck Institute proposal was made as a half-way measure, to accommodate President' Obama's refusal to join the rest of the world and plan a manned return to the Moon, and, instead, to try to make more realistic his manned mission to an asteroid, which would be so far in to the future it has garnered little support. This proposal would bring the asteroid near Earth, instead of mastering what is necessary to send men into deep space.

Popovkin also said in his interview that Russia should create a unified system for tracing celestial bodies that could present a potential threat to Earth. "It would be good to create an efficient asteroid-monitoring system before 2020. Certainly, we should also start thinking about the ways to fight these space invaders," Popovkin said. The Russian space chief called for joint global efforts the stave off the asteroid threat. "Asteroids pose threat to the entire Earth, not just one country. We will be able to protect ourselves only if we work together, in international cooperation. We will fail if each country attempts to do it alone," he said.