Despite the skepticism, Louis Friedman, the former Planetary Society chief who co-chaired the Keck Institute panel that originally drafted the asteroid-capture proposal, told the committee that the mission would be scientifically useful in itself, and also would help engineers learn what it would take to divert an asteroid on a collision course with Earth.
He noted that private companies are beginning to look for ways to exploit the mineral resources in near-Earth asteroids, and said the mission could also bring other spacefaring nations into a new cooperative venture with NASA.
“This project will not just unify NASA with science, technology, robotic and human components,” he said. “It will unify many others globally with a great adventure. Europe, Japan, Russia, all have asteroid mission plans, and solar electric spacecraft in operation. They could join in the mission development.”