Chinese Scientists Want to Lasso an Asteroid

Everybody knows the best method of dealing with dangerous asteroids—it's called Bruce Willis. But what if said asteroid wasn't on a collision course with us and we wanted to study, rather than explode, it? A team of Chinese researchers may have the solution.

A team from Tsinghua University in Beijing, led by Hexi Baoyin, wants to capture a passing Near Earth Object in a shallow orbit around the planet where it can be studied—and mined—for a couple of years before it escapes Earth's gravity well. To actually catch the NEO, the team posits that slightly nudging it's trajectory would be enough to move it into orbit.

The idea for this scheme originated from observations of Jupiter, which has previously been seen capturing smaller bodies for years at a time, though they too eventually escape the gas giant's gravitational clutches and are flung back into space.

The most likely candidate for nudging is 10-meter 2008EA9. It will pass by Earth in 2049 and could theoretically be pulled into orbit by reducing its speed by a mere 410m/s.

And hey, 10-meter wide asteroids (at least the stony variety) tend to break up in the atmosphere. Tend to. [Technology Review via Popular Science - CSM]


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