In a space mission straight from the movie Armageddon, astronauts are being trained to land on an asteroid, explore it for minerals and even destroy the object if it threatens the Earth.
NASA wants humans to make contact with an asteroid up to three million miles away by the end of the next decade, something far beyond the scope of Earth-Moon space flight in 1969.
Travelling at around 80,000 kmph around the Sun with almost non-existent gravity due to their small size, landing safely on these space rocks will present a significant challenge, the Telegraph reported.
Among the team of astronauts preparing for the mission is Major Tim Peake, former British Army helicopter test pilot, who is now the first official British astronaut with the European Space Agency.
Major Peake said: "With the technology we have available and are developing today, an asteroid mission of up to a year is definitely achievable."
A training programme will teach them how to operate vehicles, conduct spacewalks and gather samples on the surface of an asteroid, said Peake.
While the primary goal of a mission to an asteroid will be scientific to learn more about their hostile environments, the skills needed to work on their surface could also prove invaluable should scientists discover one on a collision course with Earth.
NASA is currently monitoring more than 400 objects with potential to hit the Earth, although most are considered to be low risk.