KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (CBS Tampa) – Capturing an asteroid is all well and good, says NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, but it shouldn’t distract from the real goal…a manned mission to Mars.

Speaking about the asteroid mission, Bolden said his main focus is on going to the Red Planet and staying there.

“The ultimate thing is to put boots on the ground on Mars, and that’s not just to do a touch and go,” he told a forum. “It’s to live there one of these days.”

The space agency’s Asteroid Initiative is a bold mission aimed at moving a small asteroid, or a piece of a large one, closer to Earth orbit by the year 2525.

Redirecting an asteroid would involve sending a robotic spacecraft, snagging the big rock and hauling it to an orbit near the Moon.

Once there, it can serve as a staging ground to test new propulsion systems and maybe even serve as a platform for celestial mining operations.

It may also serve as a staging area for future space exploration.

The ultimate goal of this agency right now when it comes to human spaceflight is to put humans on Mars. That’s hard. That is really hard. We need a proving ground to develop some of the technologies and everything else,” Bolden said.

NASA scientists have identified about a dozen potential asteroid candidates for the mission.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsdiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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