NASA is aiming to launch a rocket to an asteroid in five years and grab a boulder off of it – a stepping stone for an eventual trip sending humans to Mars.
The space agency Wednesday unveiled details of the $1.25 billion plan to launch a solar powered unmanned spaceship to an asteroid in December 2020. The ship would then spend about a year circling the large space rock and pluck a 13-foot (4-meter) boulder off its surface.
NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot said the smaller rock would be hauled near the moon and parked there. Two astronauts would fly to it in 2025 and start exploring.
Japan launches camera satellite
Japan put into orbit a camera satellite on Thursday, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said.
The satellite was launched on board a rocket at 10:21 am (0121 GMT) from the Tanegashima Space Centre in the south-western prefecture of Kagoshima, the agency and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries said.
About 20 minutes after liftoff, the successful separation of the satellite from its H-2A rocket was confirmed by the agency.
Thursday’s launch was Japan’s second this year following a backup radar satellite for intelligence gathering launched on February 1.
Japan has two radar satellites and two optical satellites in orbit.
The latest satellite will replace one of the two optical ones that was launched in 2009. It was developed at a cost of 32.5 billion yen (272 million dollars), Japan’s Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Center said.