NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission, projected for 2020, has passed Key Decision Point-B, meaning it will soon begin a comprehensive planning process.
The complex mission is currently targeted to launch in 2021, pegged at a cost of $1.4 billion, NASA said in a statement. After launch, the rocket will travel to a large near-Earth asteroid, collect a large boulder off of the asteroid's surface and pull that piece to the moon. Later, astronauts will travel to the boulder to extract and analyze samples. While orbiting the asteroid, the spacecraft can also tug the asteroid off-course using the craft's and boulder's combined gravity (as a proof-of-concept for deflecting a threatening body).