As part of NASA’s ultimate mission to send people to Mars, the Asteroid Redirection Program (ARM) will be used to essentially give our moon its own moon. The asteroid redirect mission will also allow astronauts and space scientists to gather the information they need to create the spaceships that will be used for the Mars mission.
The idea behind ARM is to bring a piece of an asteroid from elsewhere in space over to our moon so that it will be orbiting it. At the moment, NASA is developing defense mechanisms and emergency protocols that will be in place to prevent an asteroid from trying to collide with Earth.
The current plan is to have the asteroid in place by sometime in the 2020s, as it could easily take 5 years or more to actually move and reposition it into exactly the right spot. As of yet, there is no firm asteroid that will be used, although there are many candidates that could fit the requirements of this particular mission. Among them are Bennu, 2008 EV5, and Itokawa. There is also an ongoing search for other possible candidates in order to ensure that only the best one is used.
The asteroids that are currently eligible for candidacy in the Asteroid Redirection Program are being selected for various characteristics, such as their size, overall velocity and the rate at which they spin. All of these factors come into play when selecting the best one for our moon. There is also an expected rate of 2-3 new candidates arising every year, until the asteroid redirect mission takes place. This will give scientists time and enough resources to pick the right one.
Once the selection process has been completed, there will be the issue of actually capturing and moving it to its new home, which will be in orbit around our moon. Two different methods are currently being discussed for the procedure. The first method would be to use an inflatable bag of sorts to put over the asteroid section and the second method would require the use robotic arms, which will get a hold of a boulder off a larger asteroid that has been selected. The final decision will be made later this year as to which method will be used for the asteroid redirect mission.
The asteroid chunk will be moved to its new home sometime between the 2020s and 2030s based on current projections. Once the asteroid has reached its destination, it will be placed into orbit around our moon for further exploration.