NASA has included an item for capturing an asteroid in this financial year’s budget request. Two companies have launched in the last year dedicated to mining asteroids. There’s no doubt in my mind that asteroids represent the next frontier for both human and robotic spaceflight.

Near Earth asteroids, or NEAs, are easier to reach than the moon. Depending on the size and where the are, they can be towed to a convenient location for exploration. And they are valuable, full of precious metals, the raw stuff of building infrastructure in space, and, most importantly, full of water. Water to drink, to breathe (after separating out the oxygen), and to power rockets (hydrogen and oxygen burning together constitute the best chemical fuel we know how to make).

“Chief asteroid miner” at Planetary Resources, Chris Lewicki, talks about NASA’s new plan to bag an asteroid in a recent blog post.

Planetary Resources is the best-funded of the two asteroid mining companies (the other is Deep Space Industries), and it is well along in constructing its first fleet of asteroid-hunting spacecraft. Yes. Fleet. These folks aren’t fooling around, and they have the backing and the expertise to get this job done.

NASA administrator Charlie Bolden will unveil the requested budget on Wednesday, April 10, at 3pm Eastern Time. You can listen in here:

And get more details starting at 1pm here: