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Asteroid plan faces scrutiny in Trump transition

Asteroid rendezvous
In this artist’s conception, two astronauts make their way between their Orion capsule and a piece of an asteroid that’s been captured by a robotic spacecraft. (NASA via YouTube)

House Republicans are voicing renewed doubts about NASA’s plan to have astronauts study a piece of an asteroid – a turn of events that was expected for the transition to the Trump administration.

The Asteroid Redirect Mission, or ARM, was a trademark space initiative for President Barack Obama but has drawn GOP criticism for years. Critics saw the mission as an ill-planned detour on the road to the moon or Mars.

As currently conceived, the mission calls for a robotic spacecraft to visit a near-Earth asteroid, pull off a piece and bring it back to lunar orbit for study by a crew of astronauts in the mid-2020s.

NASA says the mission would serve as practice for a crewed journey to Mars and could serve as a test for diverting killer asteroids in the future. But leading House Republicans voiced skepticism about the mission’s utility in a letter sent to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden today.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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