In Robert Zubrin's Moon Direct; A purpose-driven plan to open the lunar frontier (found in the Pod Bay) there is a paragraph that says:

Essentially, the gateway is a vestigial form of the Obama administration’s defunct and discredited Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). As NASA describes it, ARM’s aim was “to develop a robotic spacecraft to visit a large near-Earth asteroid, collect a multi-ton boulder from its surface and redirect the boulder into orbit around the moon, where astronauts would have explored it and returned to Earth with samples.” The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway is the ARM except with a space station instead of an asteroid, all to come up with something for astronauts to do in lunar orbit.

While initiatives by one political administration are made "defunct" by a subsequent administration all the time, it's the "discredited" part I'm asking about here.

I don't really know what ever happened with this mission. It was a thing for a while, then it wasn't. So I'd just like to ask

Question: What ever happened to the Asteroid Redirect Mission?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think you're reading too much in to it, uhoh. "Who" anyway would have "discredited" it? It was far from a major news media story. "Objectively" ("factually?" you mean?) it seems that the project had almost no support in Congress at any time, so, you could read that as "discredited". $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 3:22
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The ARM is a sad story from the beginning, NASA desperate to have something, anything, to do, and then the collapse of its goals as reality set in. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 3:32
  • $\begingroup$ Zubrin has his opinions $\endgroup$
    – user20636
    Commented Nov 2, 2018 at 0:05

1 Answer 1


Warning: There is no way to decouple politics from this; I have tried to be objective.

What ended as the ARM (Asteroid Redirect Mission) officially began in a speech by then-President Obama in April 2010 at Kennedy Space Center. This was the speech in which President Obama discussed the cancellation of the Constellation lunar landing program:

"But I just have to say pretty bluntly here. We’ve been there before."

The Obama administration's February 2010 budget request had already proposed the project cancellation, so this was not an announcement of that. In fact, that budget had proposed cancelling the Orion spacecraft as well. However, in this speech President Obama made an announcement about a crewed mission to an asteroid by 2025 which would use Orion. Please note the exact wording - that is important.

“And by 2025 we expect new spacecraft designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first ever crewed missions beyond the Moon into deep space. So we’ll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history.”

(emphasis mine)

Note: this type of mission had been studied before as part of Constellation planning as this November 2006 article and this November 2009 article describe, so it was not completely novel.

In June 2011 NASA was still trying to plan the mission. The thought was to send a crew to a near-Earth asteroid but no destination had been chosen.

enter image description here

In 2013 and March 2014 President Obama's NASA Administrator Bolden was talking in terms of capturing a small asteroid whole and returning it to an orbit near Earth. (To meet the "sending astronauts to an asteroid" goal literally)

enter image description here

By May 2015 both ideas of sending a crew to a deep-space destination or moving an asteroid to a Earth orbit had been abandoned in favor of what was really a sample return mission (although that term was never officially used). This would involve a robotic spacecraft which obtained a sample from an asteroid and returned it to an orbit near Earth, from which a crew would retrieve it.

enter image description here

By June 2017 the project was cancelled by the Trump administration.

To sum up, a sad history of descoping followed by cancellation.

  1. Send crew to an asteroid (April 2010)
  2. Bring an asteroid back (April 2013)
  3. Bring a rock back (May 2015)
  4. Cancellation (June 2017)
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That is the exact opposite of how the features and expectations look for most projects that SE members work on. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 12:29
  • $\begingroup$ @AaronHarun those projects probably start with real requirements instead of a posture of "here are the systems we are stuck with, is there anything we can do with them". $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 13:21
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Sadly it's almost certainly going to happen to Artemis as well. $\endgroup$
    – ikrase
    Commented Jan 16, 2021 at 23:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.