It looks like NASA will be getting funding for a proposed mission to capture an asteroid. Space.com reports on it here.
I think the concept is very cool, and probably feasible given enough money. However, I’m going to have to bet against the project making actual headway due to the scourge of NASA: politics.
One should notice two things about the politics of the mission:
- The main proponent in congress is a senator from Florida. Since the mission will require a large new rocket and thus infrastructure overhaul and additional employees at Kennedy Space Center a large fraction of the funding for the mission will be aimed in that direction. You can put the two together.
- The president has created a timeline of the mission with a 2021 launch date. If you do the math, that is a guaranteed one and possibly two administrations after the current one. Given the track record for continuity of NASA goals between administrations (and even within them,) expecting a flagship effort to continue unaltered for so long is like making promises about the careers of your unborn grandchildren.
Political interests and politician’s short sightedness screwing over NASA missions (and wasting a lot of money and valuable research time) is a common story. These inefficiencies are a strong argument for both an overhaul of the relationship between NASA and the rest of the government as well as a shift in the balance of space exploration between the private and public sectors.