The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's initiative to capture a boulder-sized rock from an asteroid and send it into stable orbit around the moon, as well as prevent possible asteroid collision with Earth, has officially been scrapped.

The space agency has confirmed that its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) is already in its closeout stages due to lack of financial support, as reflected in the agency's 2018 budget, and those who were involved in the initiative will shift their focus to other NASA projects.

Redirecting Efforts

According to ARM program director Michele Gates, the initiative's termination does not necessarily mean it is the end of the entire program. Several projects that NASA engineers were working on within the ARM program, such as the solar-electric propulsion system and other key technologies, will proceed as planned since they can be used in future missions.

Scientists and engineers involved in the main initiative are already documenting every step of the mission to ensure that all important knowledge are properly archived.

"We are in an orderly closeout phase, capturing all the good work that has been done across the team, and transitioning activities as appropriate to other potential missions or archived for future use," Gates said.

That doesn't mean, however, that the NASA scientists involved in the initiative are not disappointed with how things turned out.

ARM mission investigator Dan Mazanek expressed that most, if not all, who were involved in the mission were disappointed with the closeout, especially since many of the technologies being developed for the project could benefit other missions.

"This was a dream mission as far as I was concerned ... I still think it's a good mission," Mazanek said.

Gates made the announcement during her presentation at the "17th Meeting of the NASA Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG)." Gates also noted that asteroid mission concepts are still a point of interest for NASA scientists.

Reason For The Closeout

It is known that NASA received a slight budget cut under the Trump administration, but the decrease was enough to impact the ARM initiative, especially since the space agency has been instructed to focus its efforts on sending humans to Mars by the 2030s.

"Overall science funding is stable ... We remain committed to the next human missions to deep space, but we will not pursue the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) with this budget. This doesn't mean, however, that the hard work of the teams already working on ARM will be lost," NASA acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot assured in a statement.

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