NASA has decided to go with the Option B mission for the Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM).
Option B, for those who may not have been following the story, involves a robotic retrieval spacecraft that will grab a boulder from the surface of an asteroid, transport it back to the Moon, at which point a crewed mission would rendezvous with the boulder for study.
I have mixed feelings on this decision. On one hand, the idea of sending an Orion all the way out to meet the asteroid would have been an excellent test of true deep-space operations, so to go only as far as the Moon seems almost like wimping out. If we want to go to Mars, or even more importantly set up asteroid harvesting facilities, we’ll have to go that far and be out there for long enough to prove we can sustain such an effort.
On the other hand, it has been discussed that a logical melding of the robotic and crewed space missions would be useful for capitalizing on the advantages of both. Option B certainly seems to do just that. As such, I do see some optimism to be had. What has my fingers crossed is the hope that this plan is endorsed by the current president, will be so by the next, and that Congress supports it as well. If we are going to spend the time and money out of public funds to operate the manned space flight program, we all know we need a mission. It looks like we just got one.