With NASA’s plans for an asteroid retrieval mission not currently winning widespread approval, particularly in Congress, as seen as a recent House Science Committee hearing, the space agency and the administration appear to be stepping up their efforts to build support for the mission.
The Office of Science and Technology Policy announced this week plans to host a Google+ “hangout” this Friday on asteroids. NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver will participate, along with The Planetary Society’s Bill Nye, Ed Lu of the B612 Foundation, Planetary Resources co-founder Peter Diamandis, and Jose Luis Galache, an astronomer at the Minor Planets Center. The news hook for this hangout is Friday’s flyby of Earth by the asteroid 1998 QE2, a near Earth object 2.7 kilometers across that poses no impact risk to the Earth for the foreseeable future. However, the OSTP announcement also refers to the asteroid initiative in the president’s 2014 budget request, including an asteroid retrieval mission.
On June 18, NASA is hosting a half-day workshop on the asteroid initiative in Washington, which will include the release of a request for information (RFI) “to seek new ideas for mission elements” from the community. The agenda features a variety of senior NASA and OSTP officials. “We will describe our upcoming planning timeline and clearly identify opportunities and processes for providing input into our planning,” the NASA announcement reads. For those who can’t be there in person, the event will be broadcast on NASA TV. That workshop could address one of the frequent criticisms about the agency’s asteroid initiative: the lack of details about mission’s cost, schedule, and so on, at least by explaining when those details will be better known.