NASA shoots for new human missions by 2017

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(CNN) — NASA plans to capture an asteroid and start sending astronauts aloft again by 2017, even with a tighter budget, the U.S. space agency announced Wednesday.

The Obama administration is asking Congress for just more than $17.7 billion in 2014, down a little more than 1% from the nearly $17.9 billion currently devoted to space exploration, aeronautics and other science.

The request includes $105 million to boost the study of asteroids, both to reduce the risk of one hitting Earth and to start planning for a mission to “identify, capture, redirect, and sample” a small one.

“This mission allows us to better develop our technology and systems to explore farther than we ever have before … to places humanity has dreamed of for as long as I’ve been alive,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told reporters.

The request includes $822 million for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, its push to resume U.S. space flights through private companies by 2017. Bolden called that the “bottom-line” figure, warning that any cuts would mean delays. There are no current manned commercial missions.

While putting money into renewed human space flight efforts, the proposal cuts scientific research, particularly the study of the other planets in our solar system.

Planetary science takes a nearly $300 million hit compared to 2012, the last year detailed figures were available.