The world is truly not enough anymore. Chinese astronomers want to capture a near earth object (NEO) and force it to orbit Earth. What about the risks, you ask? What about the rewards, comes the answer!
Petting an Asteroid
Researchers from Tsinghua University in Beijing want to emulate artificially what Jupiter does on a regular basis capture asteroids. Here’s the trick: Planets will pull smaller objects into an orbit around themselves if the object passes close to them. Now, if the planet is large enough, the orbit will be closed around the planet. Otherwise, the body can just complete a turnaround and fly off into space again. Most of the time this is what happens for Earth. There are many asteroids which get deflected from their paths due to the Earth’s gravity. The Chinese astronomers argue that if we can nudge it just a bit and in the right direction, we can bring it into orbit around the Earth.
So, what of the obvious dangers? What protection do we have if we make a mistake and find an asteroid hurtling into the sea? Simple the atmosphere. The NEO that the scientists want to study is called 2008EA9, which is a mere 10 meters across and is due to pass Earth in 2049. The group even has a paper published in one of the Chinese Astrophysical Journals.
Why an asteroid? We can look at the asteroid for a few years continuously. We can mine for minerals on the asteroid. We can impinge them and get to know how the Solar System came to be. And then, we can send them on their way out into oblivion once again.
So wait for a few years you might be able to keep an asteroid.