Asteroids closer to home may get us to Mars

bagging an asteroid, illustration

Rather than bag an asteroid (as shown in this artist’s depiction) and bring it to the moon, NASA should snag a rock that flies close to Earth, one scientist argues.


Guest post by Meghan Rosen

Scanning the skies for near-earth asteroids might be the best first step for getting humans to Mars.

In a comment article in the Oct. 30 Nature, MIT planetary scientist Richard Binzel argues that NASA should abandon the Asteroid Redirect Mission, the space agency’s plan to snag a space rock and jockey it into lunar orbit for astronauts to explore. Instead, NASA should beef up its telescope surveys to search for asteroids that come closer to home. At least one whizzes between the Earth and the moon every week, Binzel writes.

Sending humans out to these nearby asteroids would save scientists the trouble of wrangling a far-out space rock, and it would give astronauts a smorgasbord of different stepping stones to Mars, he notes.

For more on the debate, read SN’s feature“NASA bets on asteroid mission as best path to Mars.”

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