This June 1978 artist's concept shows an asteroid retrieval mission.

This artist’s concept from 1978 shows an asteroid retrieval mission. (NASA)View larger image

Within NASA’s new FY2014 budget proposal lies a project known as the Asteroid Retrieval and Utilization Mission. This project would be the first to capture a small near-Earth asteroid and safely redirect it to a lunar orbit so that astronauts can visit and explore it. Such a mission would expand scientific knowledge of the origins of both humanity and the universe.

The goal of asteroid retrieval is not a new endeavor for NASA. In fact, the idea dates to the earliest days of the agency. In a 1964 document that looked at “long range future mission planning,” NASA expressed an early aspiration to visit asteroids through unmanned probes by the end of the 1970s. NASA did indeed send a probe through the asteroid belt early in that decade – Pioneer 10 safely traversed the Belt on its way to Jupiter in 1972. By 1969, according to a “Five Year Plan” laid out by the Office of Manned Space Flight, NASA was already looking at plans to send crewed missions to asteroids. However, at the time, the then-latest technology was insufficient to pursue this goal. NASA

via NASA – The Long and Storied Path to Human Asteroid Exploration.