Science
11:09 pm
Tue April 23, 2013

Bill Nelson: NASA to Get $100 Million for Asteroid Project

Senator Bill Nelson explains the asteroid project.

When the White House unveils its fiscal year 2014 budget next week, prepare to have your mind blown. The financial estimate includes about $100 million for something most of us have only imagined.

Are we talking about a lifetime supply of hoagies from Wawa, the trendy convenience store chain that was met with great fanfare when it recently opened its first Tampa Bay locations? Nope. Think bigger... and farther. The money will help human beings get closer to establishing a permanent settlement in space. That's according to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who apparently got the inside scoop during a briefing with scientists.

 "This'll be humankind's first attempt at modifying the heavens to enable the permanent settlement of humans in space," said Nelson, Florida's Democrat senior U.S. Senator, in a statement you can hear above. According to Nelson, the plan goes like this:

  1. Use a robotic spacecraft to catch an asteroid.
  2. Tow it back to Earth.
  3. Place it in orbit around Earth's moon.

We'll let the press release we got from Nelson's office explain what happens from there: 

Next, astronauts aboard America’s Orion capsule, powered into space by a new monster rocket, would travel to the asteroid where there could be mining activities, research into ways of deflecting an asteroid from striking Earth, and testing to develop technology for a trip to deep space and Mars.

 

 Nelson has said the plan is part of a larger program that also includes exploring ways to put human beings on Mars. Nelson has a longstanding interest in space. It was he, along with former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), who led Congress to okay funding for the aforementioned "monster rocket." He orbited earth in a space shuttle in 1986, and now chairs a Senate subcommittee on science and space.

Nelson said he thinks Obama will go for the plan, as the president has already set a goal of sending humans to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the 2030's. The plan Nelson has described is slightly more ambitious; it aims to send astronauts to an asteroid in 2021. At that point, America will be that much closer to accomplishing the important business of the 21st Century: putting a Wawa on Mars.

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