According to several media, the 2014 US budget is likely to include a $100 million post for a NASA project exploring the possibility of mining asteroids.
The basic idea goes something like this: a robot carrying a propulsion unit and a capture bag is sent to an asteroid. The ideal candidate weighs around 500 tonnes and have an orbit that brings it close to Earth. The robot then uses the propulsion unit to maneuver the asteroid into an orbit around the Moon, leaving it perfectly placed for astronaut prospectors to come and take a closer look.
All of this is scheduled to take place some time around 2025 and a mission like the one described above is budgeted to cost around $2.65 billion.
Asteroids are thought to carry large deposits of valuable and rare metals, which is the rationale behind (potentially) roping them in.
It’s either that or buy them off China. And it might be a hint of how USA feels about buying them off China…