NASA is exploring the possibility of sending a probe to an asteroid and sending back some samples to Earth.
That idea, first proposed by a group of scientists in 2015, has gained traction in recent months as the space agency pursues its ambitious goal of sending humans to Mars in the 2030s.
If the asteroid are to be explored, they could be sent into orbit, where they would eventually be returned to Earth as part of a mission to find water and resources on the Red Planet.
NASA officials are not publicly discussing their plan for a mission, and they have not yet publicly shared the details of their proposal.
But they have indicated that the agency has considered exploring an asteroid in the past.
A 2015 study from the Carnegie Institution of Washington, led by John Slattery, an astrophysicist, proposed a series of scenarios to explore the possibility.
One scenario envisioned sending a small spacecraft to an object called KIC 8462852, which orbits the Sun every 13 years.
The spacecraft would arrive at the asteroid and launch a robotic probe.
Then the probe would follow the asteroid for about a year and a half, collecting samples.
If it was successful in collecting the samples, the probe could return the samples to the Earth for analysis.
Another scenario envisioned that a small probe would land on the asteroid.
Then, after two years, the spacecraft would return the sample to the asteroid to study it for possible signs of life.
A third scenario envisioned an asteroid that is nearly twice as large as KIC, but a bit smaller than Earth’s orbit around the Sun.
The probe would launch and return a robot to the surface.
The asteroid’s surface would be covered in a layer of ice and sand, but it would be exposed to sunlight.
Then a probe would descend to the core and take a sample.
A fourth scenario envisioned landing on an asteroid near the Moon, where a spacecraft could conduct its experiments.
The sample would be transported to the Moon’s surface, where it would eventually arrive at Earth.
“There are a number of different scenarios, and we’re still figuring out the right one for each,” said John Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator for planetary science, at a recent news briefing.
“What we do know is that the asteroid that we think we could target is close enough to Earth to have a sample returnable.”
The most common scenario envisioned a mission in the next 20 to 30 years, but NASA officials have indicated they are still in the early stages of exploring it.
That’s because it would take decades to get the spacecraft to orbit and return samples to earth, the agency said.
“We’re not looking at any particular time horizon,” said Michael Coats, NASA administrator.
“It’s all a matter of timing.”
The Planetary Society, a nonprofit organization that advocates for science in space, said the proposal would require significant investment, saying that it would cost billions of dollars.
The group said the money would be better spent on developing an asteroid to serve as a future mission destination.
The Asteroid Redirect Mission, or ARMM, would launch a spacecraft to a proposed target asteroid, collect a sample, and return it to Earth for study.
It would then launch a rover to collect samples and send them to the moon to study the materials that are expected to be there.
The mission would launch in 2025.
The first mission would be launched in 2021.
The goal would be to collect and analyze at least one sample every three years, and the mission would cost $2 billion.
That money would then be divided among a research group, a crew, and a spacecraft, the group said.
The next mission would target the asteroid near KIC 78533, which is about 40 million miles from Earth.
The target would be designated KIC 60529, which would be about 2,000 million miles away.
A second mission, in 2022, would fly by the target.
The second mission would fly past the asteroid’s core, but would then fly back to Earth, according to the group.
“The mission will be conducted in such a way that it can be done in a way with minimal impact on the Earth,” the group’s statement said.
According to a statement released by NASA in May, the plan is to use the asteroid as the “test bed” for future missions, with the first mission arriving in 2027.
The organization also said that the group is not planning a launch to KIC-6, which has been identified as the closest target.
“At this point, the Asteroid Mission is not on NASA’s radar as a launch vehicle for future exploration, nor is it under consideration as a possible mission destination,” the statement said at the time.
The Planetary Science Institute, a non-profit organization that seeks to explore and study the planets in our solar system, said that it does not believe that any asteroid would be considered a suitable target for NASA to study.
“Any mission that targets a planet is unlikely to succeed, as the chances of a