Does Obama Have a Plan to Capture an Asteroid?

Not on Obama's watch, says Obama, according to Bill Nelson.<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/cat.mhtml?lang=en&search_source=search_form&version=llv1&anyorall=all&safesearch=1&searchterm=asteroid&search_group=#id=121196200&src=nNSyJT8oYvGM0Ph3FmCQOg-1-9">puchan</a>/Shutterstock

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Does President Barack Obama intend to capture an asteroid and place it into lunar orbit?

This seems more like a Newtonian (as in Gingrich) idea. But on Friday afternoon, the office of Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) blasted out a press release disclosing that Obama’s forthcoming budget includes a $100 million plan to tow an asteroid into moon orbit. And this will be done for freedom—that is, for the purpose of saving the planet Earth from complete annihilation. (This is not about just serving the Democratic Party’s base.)

Here’s the gist of the press release:

Bill Nelson press release on NASA and Obama asteroid tow

An excerpt (emphasis mine):

Tucked inside President Barack Obama’s proposed federal budget for next fiscal year is about $100 million to jump start a program scientists say is the next step towards humans establishing a permanent settlement in space. That, at least, is what U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson says we’re likely to see when the White House unveils its fiscal year 2014 budget around the middle of next week. Nelson has been briefed by scientists…In a nutshell, the plan in NASA’s hands calls for catching an asteroid with a robotic spacecraft and towing it back toward Earth, where it would then be placed in a stable orbit around the moon.

Next, astronauts aboard America’s Orion capsule, powered into space by a new monster rocket, would travel to the asteroid where there could be mining activities, research into ways of deflecting an asteroid from striking Earth, and testing to develop technology for a trip to deep space and Mars.

“This is part of what will be a much broader program,” Nelson said today, during a visit in Orlando. “The plan combines the science of mining an asteroid, along with developing ways to deflect one, along with providing a place to develop ways we can go to Mars.”

The president already has established the goal of landing astronauts on a near-Earth asteroid by 2025. This new plan would bump up the date to 2021. As in, not a moment to waste.

Nelson, a former astronaut, has an affinity for asteroids and United States asteroid policy; last month, he was on a Senate panel that grilled scientists about the consequences of an asteroid striking earth. He was keen to know if there is any way for humankind to fight back against asteroid aggression.

Obama has often been slammed for supposedly not being bold, for not being tough enough with foes. But if Nelson is right, Obama is ready to do what’s necessary to take on the asteroid threat and make the United States the first nation to claim a giant space rock. Forget Spock or Luke Skywalker; he’s going the full Bruce Willis:

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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