U.S. Senator Bill Nelson says when President Barack Obama's proposed federal budget is released next week it will include about $100 million to jump start a program scientists say is the next step towards establishing a permanent space colony.
The plan is for NASA to capture an asteroid with a robotic spacecraft and tow it back toward Earth where it can be placed in orbit around the moon.
Then, astronauts aboard an Orion capsule, powered into space by a new monster rocket, would travel to the asteroid.
"This is part of what will be a much broader program" Nelson said Friday. "The plan combines the science of mining an asteroid, along with developing ways to deflect one, along with providing a plan to develop ways we can go to Mars."
Nelson says NASA’s plan is very similar to one proposed by space experts at the California Institute of Technology last year. That plan proposed bringing a 500-ton asteroid closer to Earth giving astronauts a destination for the next decade.
Nelson says President Obama favors the plan and has already announced a goal of sending astronauts to a near -Earth asteroid by 2025. This would advance the that date to 2021.