NASA hopes to launch a rocket at an asteroid–and have a spacecraft grab a piece of the asteroid for examination. Details of the $1.25 billion plan were revealed on Wednesday. An unmanned solar-powered spacecraft would orbit the asteroid for a year and use a large robotic arm to grab a boulder from its surface. Once grabbed the boulder would be placed in orbit around the moon, where astronauts would be able to examine it.
The mission plans to launch in 2020. Astronauts will be examining its purloined space contraband by 2025. NASA hasn’t yet determined which asteroid it will target, but a leading candidate is called 2008 EV5. The Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) will put lots of technology to the test, including new spacesuits, and soft landing and grabbing tech. Originally NASA had planned to drag the entire asteroid, not just a boulder, into the moon’s orbit–hence the name ARM. It’s all part of NASA’s grand plan to have humans travel to Mars.