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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. –
Landing a man on the moon was a towering achievement. Now the president has given NASA an even harder job, one with a certain Hollywood quality: sending astronauts to an asteroid, a giant speeding rock, just 15 years from now.
Space experts say such a voyage could take several months longer than a journey to the moon and entail far greater dangers. "It is really the hardest thing we can do," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said.
Going to an asteroid could provide vital training for an eventual mission to Mars. It might help unlock the secrets of how our solar system formed. And it could give mankind the know-how to do something that has been accomplished only in the movies by a few square-jawed, squinty-eyed heroes: saving the Earth from a collision with a killer asteroid.