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Retired telescope, the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), is being brought back to help look for asteroids starting next month.
If a suitable asteroid is located, NASA plans to have it dragged back to orbit the moon via robotic spacecraft, Reuters reports. Once the asteroid is in high orbit around the moon, astronauts could visit in the deep-space Orion capsule. The capsule needs test flights as it’s scheduled to launch around 2021.
“After a quick checkout, we’re going to hit the ground running,” Amy Mainzer, an astronomer with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab offered in a statement.
The Orion and Space Launch System being developed is currently costing NASA a yearly $3 billion.
According to the Associated Press, WISE was launched in 2009 and was used to look for galaxies, stars and other celestial bodies, but completed its primary mission in 2011.
WISE helped scientists catalog over 560 million different objects during its short two-year operating span, Reuters says.
The AP notes that the hope is to use any asteroid found as an initial test before attempting a flight to Mars.
image: Wikimedia Commons