It may sound crazy to you but NASA actually aims to grab an asteroid, draw it to the orbit between the moon and the Earth and finally send people to collect a sample from it. And to make it happen, the agency just announced its plan to ask for assistance from different aerospace companies. Starting in September, NASA will receive proposals for various aspects of the mission under the Asteroid Redirect Mission Umbrella for Partnerships (ARM-UP) Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) project.
Basically, the mission will be held in two stages. First, the mission is to send a robotic spacecraft to an asteroid (scheduled for 2021) that will drag it to cislunar space. After five years, NASA plans to send human astronauts to the captured asteroid to retrieve samples.
The proposals NASA will accept for partner provided payloads, such as scientific instruments, aboard the robotic flight. Also, membership applications for an investigation team to lend their technical expertise to the project for the next few years will be received. Finally, NASA will review those proposals from companies want to take part in the crewed phase and from those craving for access to the captured asteroid after astronauts are done inspecting.
Though the agency didn’t reveal the reason behind seeking help from private space corporations, Spaceref notes that this project costs up from $1.25 billion to $1.4 billion. This is definitely a big issue as the government doesn’t want to spend money on this mission.