LONDON: NASA scientists are planning to capture a 500 ton asteroid, relocate it and turn it into a space station for astronauts to refuel at on their way to Mars.
The 1.6bn-pound plan will be considered by the White House's Office of Science and technology in the coming weeks, as it prepares to set its space exploration agenda for the next decade, the Daily Mail reported.
According to a report prepared by NASA and California Institute of Technology (Caltech) scientists, a, 'asteroid capture capsule' would be attached to an old Atlas V rocket and directed towards the asteroid between the earth and the moon.
Once close, the asteroid capsule would release a 50ft diameter bag that wrap around the spinning rock using drawstrings.
The craft would then turn on its thrusters, using an estimated 300kg of propellant, to stop the asteroid in its tracks and tow it into a gravitationally neutral spot.
From here space explorers would have a stationary base from which to launch trips deeper into space.
Though NASA declined to comment on the project, it is believed that technology would make it possible within 10-12 years.
The technology would also open up the possibility of mining other asteroids for their metals and minerals.
Some are full of iron which could be used for in the making of new space stations, others are made up of water which could be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen to make fuel.
It is hoped that the project will increase our understanding of asteroids, and even shed new light on the origin of life on Earth.