At the California Institute of Technology, plans are being discussed about bringing an asteroid back to Earth. Essentially, scientists want to send a robotic probe into space, capture an asteroid, and push it back to Earth using solar-electric propulsion.
Workshops are now being organized at the institute to hash out the specifics of how the anchoring would work. Plans like these may sound out of the world-literally-but they have actually been a part of NASA's agenda for quite some time. NASA predicts that there are approximately 19,500 asteroids at least 330 feet wide in size within 28 million miles of our planet. Many of these could potentially threaten Earth as a target, and this to-be mission is just one of the ways we can defend ourselves from that danger.
The Obama administration is said to have similar missions planned for astronauts. One benefit that could come out of this mission is providing us with a launching pad for future space missions. Sending spacecraft far into the system right now requires a lot of resources and time to ensure maximum efficiency and safety. With a launching station between Earth and the Sun, we could save fuel, money, and time.
Another advantage to this project could be the possibility of constructing on asteroids. Depending on what the asteroid is made up of, some surfaces could sustain space-based habitats. Asteroids made up of some amount of water could even mean life can exist there.
Despite the good that this project can produce, it's not to say there are no risks involved in this plan. Because asteroids' movements are usually unpredictable, it could be highly dangerous to grab such a large object. The group at the California Institute of Technology has yet to make a decision on the next step, but specifics will be discussed in January of next year.