|Researchers tested the robotic capture system that could pluck a boulder from an asteroid during NASA’s proposed Asteroid Redirect Mission in a full-scale model at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.|
|NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) has passed a key design milestone, bringing the project one step closer to snagging a boulder off an asteroid and pulling that piece into orbit around the moon.|
The complex mission is currently targeted to launch in 2021, pegged at a cost of $1.4 billion, NASA said in a statement. After launch, the rocket will travel to a large near-Earth asteroid, collect a large boulder off of the asteroid’s surface and pull that piece to the moon. Later, astronauts will travel to the boulder to extract and analyze samples. While orbiting the asteroid, the spacecraft can also tug the asteroid off-course using the craft’s and boulder’s combined gravity (as a proof-of-concept for deflecting a threatening body).
Now, the mission has passed a milestone called Key Decision Point-B (KDP-B) — formally approved Aug. 15 — and it will be able to move on to its Phase B planning stage. To pass, NASA officials “established the content, cost and schedule commitments for Phase B activities,” NASA said in a statement. By the end of Phase B, ARM will have an approved baseline mission and design that meets all the agreed-upon requirements, in a process that all NASA missions pass through. …