NASA has been exploring the possibility of creating a moon for the Moon. The idea would be to bring an asteroid into a stable orbit around the moon to act as a staging post for future expeditions to deep space including a mission to Mars.
Astronauts would use the new moon to test technology. Called the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), the plan will mean taking an unmanned spacecraft to a near Earth asteroid and robotically pick up a 4m boulder from it. The asteroid will then be redirected through the gravitational attraction created by the spacecraft and the boulder over a journey likely to take a few years.
The ARM will supply a demonstration of capabilities that will be needed to send astronauts into deep space and Mars. NASA’s Robert Lightfoot said, “the option to retrieve a boulder from an asteroid will have a direct impact on planning for future human missions to deep space and begin a new era in spaceflight.”
The mission is also critical for testing our ability to move the trajectory of an asteroid should it ever come into a collision course with the Earth. The project is likely to cost around $1,25bn and launch in 2020. There are three target asteroids for the mission which include Itokawa, Bennu and 2008 EV5, but a decision on which to focus on will not be made until 2019.