NASA’s 2014 budget includes $100 million to get going on a long-term project to capture a smallish asteroid using a kind of robotic space lasso and bring it into orbit around earth where it can be probed and visited by astronauts and researchers.
A rocky guy known as NEO 2009BD could be an ideal candidate for humanity’s first pet space rock.
The current plan for NASA’s “Asteroid Robotic Retrieval Mission” calls for a candidate asteroid of seven to ten meters in diameter, and it looks like 2009BD could fit the bill, according to information provided by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
However, researchers still need to gather more information on the rock, as its exact size, density and composition are still uncertain. 2009BD is the smallest object ever reported on using data from the Spitzer Space Telescope, which is typically used for spotting much larger objects.
Still, 2009BD has an orbit around the sun that is similar to that of Earth, at about 400 days, and it will be in our neighborhood again in late 2022, which is when NASA’s proposed asteroid capture mission could take place.
The space agency is in the process of narrowing down possible candidates, and more information on this one will be needed soon – before it gets too far away from us for more precise measurements – if it’s going to have a real chance of becoming our first natural space pet.