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[i]Suggested last year by the Keck Institute for Space Studies at the California Institute of Technology, the idea has attracted favor at NASA and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. President Obama’s goal of sending astronauts to a near-Earth asteroid by 2025 can’t be done with foreseeable civil-space spending, the thinking goes. But by moving an asteroid to cislunar space — a high lunar orbit or the second Earth-Moon Lagrangian Point (EML2), above the Moon’s far side — it is conceivable that technically the deadline could be met.
The Keck study estimated it would cost about $2.65 billion to bring in a 500,000-kg (1.1 million-lb.) asteroid, using solar-electric propulsion to reach it and a deployable capture bag to enfold a carbonaceous asteroid measuring 7 meters across. Positioned at EML2, the small space rock would be close enough to reach with an Orion crew vehicle launched by a heavy-lift Space Launch System, and would give a crew a real objective for scientific study.[/i]
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