NASA also is funding its continued work on the James Webb Space Telescope, which the space agency calls the next great observatory. With a planned launch in 2018, the telescope is geared to be the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, searching for the first galaxies that formed in the early universe and hopefully giving scientists information about the Big Bang and the Milky Way.
However, the plans to capture an asteroid and move it into Earth's orbit may be one of NASA's more attention-grabbing missions.
The plan includes finding a near-Earth asteroid that weighs about 500 tons but may be only 25 or 30 feet long. NASA did not say how soon this could be done, but said it would keep the agency within reach of its goal to visit an asteroid by 2025.
"This mission represents an unprecedented technological feat that will lead to new scientific discoveries and technological capabilities and help protect our home planet," Bolden said. "We will use existing capabilities, such as the Orion crew capsule and Space Launch System rocket, and develop new technologies like solar electric propulsion and laser communications -- all critical components of deep space exploration."
He also said NASA's plans, including the asteroid mission, rocket and robotic development, will help to create jobs for the next generation of scientists and engineers.
"NASA's ground-breaking science missions are reaching farther into our solar system, revealing unknown aspects of our universe and providing critical data about our home planet and threats to it," Bolden said. "Spacecraft are speeding to Jupiter, Pluto and Ceres while satellites peer into other galaxies, spot planets around other stars, and uncover the origins of the universe."
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is email@example.com.
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