BBC News reports that US space agency Nasa is studying the use of tractor beams for the purpose of gathering sample material:
Several tractor-beam ideas have been published in the scientific literature but none has yet been put to use.
Nasa scientist Paul Stysley says the approach could "enhance science goals and reduce mission risk".
"Though a mainstay in science fiction, and Star Trek in particular, laser-based trapping isn't fanciful or beyond current technological know-how," said Dr Stysley of Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center, whose group was awarded the research funding.
Star Trek? What's that?