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The space agency will decide by the end of the year if this is the chosen asteroid

NASA has been planning to capture an asteroid for experimental purposes, and it looks like the space agency has a few candidates in mind.
 
According to NASA, the prime candidate is an asteroid called 2011 MD. The plan is to capture the asteroid, shift it to a stable orbit around the moon, and send astronauts to explore it. NASA hopes to launch its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) robotic spacecraft to rendezvous with 2011 MS in the year 2019, and send astronauts to it some time during the following decade while it orbits the moon.
 
The NASA report indicated that 2011 MD is about the size of a delivery truck, weighs 100 tons, and is the main focus right now due to its activity above Earth during the year 2011. The Spitzer Space Telescope caught a glimmer of 2011 MD 7,600 miles above our home planet at that time. 
 
But just how do you capture an asteroid? NASA's plan is to either use a giant claw or inflatable bag.


Image of 2011 MD taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope [Source: NASA]

If things don't turn out as planned with 2011 MD, NASA's next option is to send a spacecraft to a larger asteroid, extract a chunk of it, and bring it to the moon for exploration.
 
NASA is set to decide between the two options by the end of the year, and there are currently three candidates per option. 
 
"Observing these elusive remnants that may date from the formation of our solar system as they come close to Earth, is expanding our understanding of our world and the space it resides in," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.
 
"Closer study of these objects challenge our capabilities for future exploration and will help us test ways to protect our planet from impact. The Spitzer observatory is one of our tools to identify and characterize potential candidate targets for the asteroid mission."
 
NASA, however, won't stop at just one asteroid. It plans to capture 10 asteroids of various sizes by the early 2020s. 

Source: NASA





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