April 12 - Obama administration hopes to jump-start space plans to use an asteroid as a stepping stone to Mars. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
President Barack Obama wants NASA to start work on finding a small asteroid that could be shifted into an orbit near the moon with the intention of eventually sending astronauts on a mission to Mars, agency officials said on Wednesday (April 10). NASA has been developing a heavy-lift rocket and deep-space capsule that could carry astronauts beyond the International Space Station. The project entails finding a 23- to 33-foot (7 to 10-meter) wide asteroid, capturing it, then towing or pushing it toward Earth so it ends up in a stable orbit near the moon. Astronauts would then land on the asteroid and bring back soil and rock samples for analysis. Interest in potentially threatening asteroids peaked after a small asteroid exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia on February 15, shattering windows and damaging buildings. About 1,500 people were injured by flying glass and debris. The system would be capable of traveling to the moon, asteroids and eventually to Mars, the long-term goal of the U.S. human space program.