Reel ‘er in!
We all know that asteroids close to the Earth are Bad News. (Although not as bad as many would have you think.) But what if we could catch one? Bring it home? Put it in Earth orbit? Maybe mine it for some valuable minerals; do a little science; potentially, I don’t know, back a new currency? Sure, say some Chinese scientists in a paper on the ArXiv. We should go for it!
In fact, there’s a snazzy little number approaching the Earth right now, they write. It’s about 30 feet wide. Should be pretty easy to hook in, using one of a variety of techniques outlined in the paper, which include “conventional explosive, kinetic impactor and nuclear explosive,” as well as “Enhanced Yarkovsky effect, focused solar, gravity tractor, mass driver, pulsed laser and space tug.” The nuclear route may not be advisable, they opine: “Because the nuclear explosion can release a very large amount of energy, the result may be a fragmentation of the target NEO.” Better to go with the kinetic imapactor, they decide. A little tap to the ol’ asteroid, and it will accelerate just enough to get stuck orbiting the Earth.
After that, well, the orbit could be unstable, and eventually the rock would fly off across the heavens. But with that as practice, one could could move on to mile-wide rocks, which, according to calculations made by gobsmacked tech and science bloggers around the web, could yield trillions of dollars of metals.
The folks over at Dvice say it best, though: “Now, were something to get screwed up and that mile-wide metallic asteroid hit Earth instead, we’d be looking at something like a 24-mile-wide crater and a fireball so large that trees 200 miles away would spontaneously burst into flames, among other fun effects.”
Sign. Us. Up.