Bangalore: US' National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) will launch a space mission to capture and redirect an asteroid into an orbit closer to earth to enable its astronauts to visit it, a top space official said.

"As part of our new initiative, we are going to launch a mission to capture and redirect an asteroid into an orbit closer to earth so that astronauts can visit it," NASA administrator Charles F. Bolden said in a talk delivered at the space applications centre of the state-run Indian space agency in Ahmedabad.

The mission also will identify and characterise asteroids of all types for clues to their origin, formation and separation from smaller planets in the solar system to become rocky-metallic objects floating in sizes ranging from pebbles to 1,000 km across.

In a statement earlier, Bolden said NASA was develop a first-ever mission to identify, capture and relocate an asteroid, by bringing together the space agency's science, technology and human exploration efforts to achieve the goal of sending humans to an asteroid by 2025. The mission is estimated to cost USD 105 million.

NASA plans to first locate a large asteroid floating in space closer to earth, deploy a robotic arm to capture it and push it into a safe orbit around the moon before sending astronauts in a capsule to study it.

"Our future plans also include advance space exploration and reach new destinations such as an asteroid and Mars," Bolden told scientists and officials of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

On his first visit to India as NASA administrator, Bolden discussed the cooperative activities between the two space-faring countries with ISRO chairman K. Radhakrishnan and senior space officials and potential areas of future missions.

"India and the US pursue active civil space cooperation in earth sciences, space exploration, satellite navigation and professional exchange," the space agency said in a statement here.

During his day-long visit, Bolden was shown the technical facilities of the space applications centre, which develops satellite sensors and antennas.


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