There have been many occasions when space agencies managed to see asteroids and study them up close. So far, scientists expressed their idea of mining asteroids in space. But now, Chinese scientists have a far more ambitious plan. They want to capture an asteroid and bring it to Earth. Mining and studying it would be a lot easier than doing it in space.
The first thought would be: this is crazy! But then, if you think about it, it’s just like bringing samples from space to Earth. Researchers at the National Space Science Center of the Chinese Academy of Sciences say that this is possible.
Li Mingtao and his team spoke about this idea at a conference. He explained that the mission could be applied to all asteroids that get past Earth’s orbit and might sometime in the future make them potential hazards. And what better way to avoid a hazard than transforming it into a source of materials from space?
“Landing” an Asteroid on Earth
Of course, the Chinese scientists will only target the asteroids that are smaller (a few hundred tons). But how will they manage to get the space rock to Earth?
The first stage would be to send some small robotic probes to the asteroid. Then they will slowly alter the course to get it to Earth. But these probes will have a difficult task. They must deploy a heat shield that will cover the surface of the asteroid so that it cannot explode over Earth.
Li and the team of scientists at the Qian Xuesen Laboratory of Space Technology are now working on creating that heat shield. If they could safely “land” an asteroid on Earth without it burning up in the atmosphere, it could allow scientists to study its components that weren’t altered by the heat. Plus, asteroids contain a lot of precious metals such as copper, gold, and platinum, so the tough work should pay off.
The team of researchers plans to send the first spacecraft by 2029.
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere