Last week Chinese scientists wanted to divert an asteroid away from Earth. This week, they want to pull one into orbit around the Earth. What's possible objections could anyone have to this idea?
The notion stems from a phenomenon the researchers from Tsinghua University in Beijing noticed from time to time with Jupiter. Every now and then our solar systems biggest planet pulls in an object from space, which orbits the planet for a time before jetting off into interplanetary space again.
We could do something similar with a number of near earth objects (NEOs) that will pass near Earth in the coming years and decades. None of these objects will pass close enough to be naturally captured by Earth's gravity, but a few will come so close that a small nudge in the right direction would put them in orbit--likely a temporary orbit--around Earth.
The idea isn't simply to flirt with cataclysmic danger, but to bring a small object (they suggest a 10-meter object called 2008EA9 that will pass nearby in 2049) into a loop around the Earth so we can study it closely for a few years. If we can get the art of capturing asteroids orbitally down to a science, we could use it to temporarily make asteroids into Earth-bound satellites (orbiting at about twice the distance of the moon), mine them for minerals, and then send them on their ways.
Read the paper at arXiv.
....or launch them in to the USA and kill everyone?
Thinking to myself all the experience China has in space in general and all the experience any country has at this possible idea of putting an asteroid in earth orbit, "NONE"! Now, I am thinking whatever solution China comes up with this asteroid, I say the USA just shoots it down. These HACKERS are just idiots. The fact they even proposes an idea like this is just worrisome and absurd.
With the Annual Congressional Report that was released not too long ago about Chinese military developments and implications, it's hard for Americans not to think like that.
However I am intrigued by both the industrial and militaristic application of this scientific endeavor. While finding more intricate was to kick the crap outta each other is always an interest of mine, I'm more intrigued by being able to harvest solar objects and mining them for their resources. Such an endeavor would increase the human industrial complex and allow us to live just a little more lavishly; not to mention the ability to mass produce space based spacecraft capable of interplanetary flight on a large scale: by dimension and quantity.
For those who ask, "What's the use of going into space?" This would be the reason. To increase the industrial complex and reduce the price. This rock's running outta resources. Whaddaya do? Find another rock to mine and harvest.
jalous...(nah just kidding ^^) But why not? after all, USA is putting all the money into the military, Japan into healthcare... Why dont Chinese put all of their into space...
bored? lets go mine the stars... ^^
Did you even bother reading the article, Bubba? Sounds like an interesting idea.
Helium3 is on the moon. Minerals on the Apophis astroid, rock, iron, more rock, more iron; nothing special worth risking planet earth for.
@BubbaGump: No experience with space? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_space_program
Also, of course no country has any experience at putting asteroids into Earth orbit. That's because no country has done it yet. And y'know what? If nobody does it, then nobody will *ever* have any experience with it.
Think about it from this perspective: the USA is looking at putting an asteroid into Earth orbit. People in China worry about this, as NASA has no experience at putting asteroids into orbit. They then shoot it down. How exactly would your leaders react to that? I sincerely doubt they'd be pleased.
A 10 metre meteoroid (if it's smaller than 110 metres, it's not an asteroid) would cause very little worry if it was to actually enter our atmosphere. A meteoroid half the diameter recently burnt up completely in the atmosphere, and that was one that was going at a relatively steep angle. If this happens to veer out of it's orbit towards the Earth, it will skim through the atmosphere at worst, burning itself away slowly but surely. Now stop panicking and let people test these things, so we can do it better with bigger ones in the future.
This makes sense for China to plan ahead. By 2049 they will have mined all the valuable resources out of every corrupt African/Mid-Asian country and will need a new source.
@Bubba - I little "Google" can be a dangerous thing. Please stop acting like you know everything. You really don't need to make multiple comments on every article.
The risk (major loss of human life) to reward (wealth to but few humans) ratio makes this, obviously, a bad idea. Common sense is more useful than intellect in this case.
@Jupiter1987, The idea of putting this asteroid in orbit is a very interesting idea, YES.
Though, I do not feel China is qualified in any way in this endeavor, and if this thing landed in USA soil, do you feel China would feel any regrets for us or anyone else? I do not believe so. Your nieve.
I do agree where I wish and prey I could believe this is ONLY ever going to be used for PURELY scientific means but knowing man kind I am just simply not that stupid. It would amazing to be able to harvest random asteroids or comets like this cuz it would be an almost endless supply but it is what it is and as a human race we are pathetic beings in the high percentage of us and insist on being petty concerned with retarded greeds and values that mean nothing in the end.
@Delcomatic: While I still think the Chinese idea is somewhat worrying, I don't think they would so stupid that they would /intentionally/ drop a rock on the U.S. The U.S. arsenal of nukes is (even after reductions) big enough to fry more or less everyone and everything on this planet many times over... Quite a lot if the stuff the chinese have been doing over the last twenty years has been the opposite of stupid, and I don't see a reason why they would be starting now.
However, accidents do happen. Even if this kind of an operation is essentially an excercise in classical, Newtonian physics, you will still end up with a three body problem (earth, moon, asteroid) which is a chore to solve with any accuracy over a longer period of time.
A fact that might mitigate the risk, is that rocks with a diameter of less than 15 meters tend to burn up and/or explode in the atmosphere on entry. So, if the chinese don't get too ambitious, and stay with the smaller rocks then the worst outcome would be an almighty bang quite high up in the air and not much worse. Maybe...
Another question is, of course, what the point with such an effort would be? Research? Why not send a robotic probe to collect and analyze the samples? Maybe even bring back some? Minerals and rare-earth mining? We have that stuff here, on Earth. He3? Not much of it in a small rock, try the Moon...
My guess is that the chinese just want to excercise their (a)newfound muscle and show off...
What would be the point? Well, if you're going to mine those resources just to drop it down to Earth, very little point. But bear in mind the current great costs to ship things up into space. It'd be much cheaper if you could pull an asteroid over here, strip mine it for resources, throw it away and build your ships in orbit. Or were you guys thinking we'd be constructing everything on Earth forever?
For those of you asking what the point of doing this, think of it like training wheels for asteroid mining. An asteroid in Earth's orbit would make it much cheaper and more efficient to fly there, and we could use the asteroid to gain more knowledge about the actual process of mining an asteroid before heading out to find a roaming on. I personally think its a great idea.
Ever see a shooting star? That's what a 10-meter asteroid looks like when it's burning up in the atmosphere, Henny Penny.
im all for this being done....by us not the chinese. i do not trust their motives. a small 10m object would be perfectly safe to orbit unless it was iron, those dont burn up to well. it would also be a good weapon for that very reason.
id prefer we mine the moon. easier to plan. we have been there before, it has helium3 and thats kinda handy to have.
Bubba: "Though, I do not feel China is qualified in any way in this endeavor, and if this thing landed in USA soil, do you feel China would feel any regrets for us or anyone else? I do not believe so. Your nieve."
My "nieve" what?
"Shooting stars" are MUCH smaller than ten meters in diameter... you should delete that post... for obvious reasons.
@Jupiter1987, just move on.....
Folks, enough paranoia. Modifying the orbit of this large meteoroid to bring it into an extremely high, barely bound orbit is a difficult task (and an interesting task which would yield some prestige and at least major "bragging rights" for whatever space agency achieves it first). But it is a thousand times more difficult to place that object on a trajectory that would send it towards the Earth and impact a relatively specific area. It is also exceedingly expensive to do, and the results would be minimal for an object this small. This program has no military implications except for those suffering from extreme sinophobia. Furthermore, even if we did artificially arrange to drop a ten-meter meteoroid into the Earth's atmosphere, the result would be an impressive fireball (a bit more than a "shooting star" but certainly in the same category). Meteors in this size range strike the Earth's atmosphere and disintegrate once every five to ten years or so --estimates vary somewhat. The Earh's atmosphere is a very effective filter removing nearly all the impact energy from anything smaller than about 50-100 meters in diameter. That's why we only find impact craters larger than about half a kilometer on the Earth while the Moon's surface is covered with craters at all sizes.
This is a great space project, and it's a shame that NASA and their handlers in DC didn't think of it first.
BubbaGump, you wrote:
"Though, I do not feel China is qualified in any way in this endeavor, and if this thing landed in USA soil, do you feel China would feel any regrets for us or anyone else? I do not believe so."
The Chinese are not "qualified" (meaning?) to do this today, but if you read the article, the specific object proposed won't even be available for the experiment for 48 years! Certainly though, another candidate could be found that would be available sooner. Additionally, this project was proposed by a couple of academics. There is not one word about a project for the Chinese space agency, and indeed, now that they have described it, anyone could take on this project. Anyone including the Russian Space Agency, the European Space Agency, NASA... and by that date perhaps a dozen other space agencies. For that matter, a private company, like SpaceX, would even have the means to do it. Again, this is about "bragging rights" more than anything else. What nation, space agency, or even private company would not like to be able to claim "we gave the Earth a new, natural moon for a few years". The real trick, and I do hope we have such skills by 2049, would be to shepherd this little object to one of the stable Lagrangian points (L4/L5). There it could remain in orbit for tens of thousands of years without any help from us.
@frankreed, you make some cool ideas, points and suggestions. And yes 48 years into the future, much can change and there is much opportunity from lots of different countries.
Do I think the Chinese could do it? Yes. Do I trust their motives? Yes. Do I want them, or anyone else, to do it? No.
We know that the gravity of a satellite can have a profound effect oon weather, currents, and the like. Having even a temporary extra satellite could potentially cause catastrophes here on Earth barely considered.
I foresee another space-race, except this one will be about pulling potentially lethal asteroids into various orbits...
What could possibly go wrong?
-Spouting a fountain of nonsense since 1995-
@Jupiter1987 "I little "Google" can be a dangerous thing. Please stop acting like you know everything. You really don't need to make multiple comments on every article."
I agree 1000% I am getting a little sick and tired of 30% every single comment on EVERY single article coming from bubba.
"all the experience any country has at this possible idea of putting an asteroid in earth orbit, "NONE""
Umm.. this is true for ANYTHING new!
"Helium3 is on the moon. Minerals on the Apophis astroid, rock, iron, more rock, more iron; nothing special worth risking planet earth for."
The moon is finite and the astriods basically infinte. It would be easy to mine a small astriod in close earth orbit.
"Though, I do not feel China is qualified in any way in this endeavor, and if this thing landed in USA soil, do you feel China would feel any regrets for us or anyone else? I do not believe so. Your nieve."
But you trust 9 different nations with nukes? I wouldn't be calling ANYONE naive.
Its really just a matter of time of until we start bringing asteroids and the such into LEO.
There are good chances we will never see a Space Elevator until we do so.
People have been proposing this sort of thing for as long we have been building rockets.
Might be a stupid idea but along with mining them we should build long term manned bases on some to possible spread humanity
ie. the halo books they connected a few and made a city.
Why exactly would a 10m rock pose any threat to anyone? all these comments on dropping this space rock on the US by the chinese... frickin dumb.
1. 10m rock would burnup instantly.
2. a rock big enough to do serious damage to the US would do GLOBAL damage.
3. why not just use a nuke? if the chinese anted to kill america (their trade debt meal ticket) they could just make sure a briefcase nuke lands on the east or west, or both coasts....
4. fear mongering is retarded.... it's what the guy in the tin foil suit hiding in his parents basement or padded cell specialise in.. it gets you nowhere.
5. first steps to getting a much larger rock up there the anchor an elevator to, planetary/moon based exploration and colonisation would benefit greatly from both the study of the 10m rock and future space elevator.
.... turn on your brains...
This is eerily starting to look like the Novel Titan, by Stephen Baxter, in it the US abandons space exploration and becomes an extremely belligrant and predatory state under a fundamentalist rule, while the Chinese conduct more and more space experiments and exploration. Ultimately, when WWIII seems to be at hand, the Chinese try to drop a small asteroid in the Pacific just to show they're serious, but they miscalculate the trajectory of their kamikaze ship and end up sending a dinosaur killer rock on our way. The US has nothing that can go further than low Earth orbit and thus can't deflect it. Ultimately humanity goes extinct by the combined onslaught of the impact event and the ensuing apocalyptic war.
Yes. Forget all those silly nuclear ICBMs. Let's spend millions to draw a passing rock into Earth's orbit, then drop it on the United States.
You people watch too many cartoons. China has absolutely no interest in dropping rocks on us. We owe them too much money.
Moreover, this is a brilliant idea, and if they can work out the physics to safely pull it off, it could open many doors for not just China, but America as well. It's a very exciting prospect.