September 30, 2013
Decades from now, people on Earth may be gearing up for an unprecedented celestial spectacle — the intentional smashing of an asteroid into the moon.
NASA is currently planning out an ambitious mission to snag a near-Earth asteroid and park it in a stable orbit around the moon, where it could be visited repeatedly by astronauts for scientific and exploration purposes. But the asteroid-capture mission may not end when astronauts leave the space rock for the last time. Seeing it through could require disposing of the asteroid in a safe — and possibly very dramatic — manner, experts say.
“You can be comfortable that [the asteroid] will stay in this orbit for 100 years or so,” Paul Chodas, a scientist with the Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said earlier this month during a panel discussion at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Space 2013 conference in San Diego.