NASA is developing a first-ever robotic mission to visit a large near-Earth asteroid, collect a multi-ton boulder from its surface, and redirect it into a stable orbit around the moon. Once it's there, astronauts will explore it and return with samples in the 2020s. This Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission (ARRM) is part of NASA's plan to advance the new technologies and spaceflight experience needed for a human mission to the Martian system in the 2030s.
Led by JPL, the mission is an integral part of NASA's plans for future human exploration, including Mars. Following proposed launch in late 2021, the spacecraft will rendezvous with and map a near-Earth asteroid, then locate and extract a large boulder. The spacecraft will demonstrate a planetary defense concept by using an enhanced gravity tractor to very slightly deflect the asteroid's orbit. The spacecraft will then maneuver the boulder into orbit around Earth's moon, where an astronaut crew in an Orion vehicle will dock to the ARRM spacecraft and conduct two spacewalks over a five-day period. The ARRM mission is enabled by significant technology advancements in low-thrust mission design, solar electric propulsion, proximity operations and robotics.
ARRM is jointly sponsored by NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate and its Space Technology Mission Directorate, in partnership with a number of other NASA centers: Glenn, Goddard, Langley, Johnson, Ames, Kennedy, and possibly Marshall, depending on the launch vehicle selected by NASA.