Does anyone know what happens when you accidentally screw up your calculations by a couple of inches when you are in outer space? Well, you crash satellites into mars… in 1999 NASA lost a 125 million Mars orbiter because one engineering team used metric units while another used English units for a key spacecraft operation.
While most astronomers are worried about an asteroid crashing against the earth, the Chinese are instead trying to figure out how they can catch an asteroid into Earth’s orbit in order to mine it.
Have you ever seen Real-TV? when they say “everything was awesome, but then… disaster strikes!” well this would be a perfect clip for that show if there was a Real-TV for the Universe. Here is what the plan calls for. The Chinese want to tweak the orbit of a near-Eart asteroid just enough to slow down the velocity of the asteroid down to 1,300 feet-per-second. This calls for having the asteroid about twice the distance as the moon. The asteroid’s orbit would be extremely unstable, meaning it could stay around the earth for just enough time, a few years or so, before it flies back out to where it came from. The few years in orbit should give us enough time to poke around the asteroid’s surface and mine it.
I’m not a hundred percent sure how they plan on slowing down an asteroid, but they want to start small, a 30-foot-wide-roid. In the future they want to go a bit bigger, about a mile long bigger, and since the asteroid is made out of metal, this could be worth a whole bunch of money.
According to the what I’ve been reading, if the mile long rock were to impact the earth, it would create a 24 mile long crater. The asteroid would create a giant fireball that could catch trees on fire from a distance of 200 miles away. There are a whole bunch of other things that will happen, here are a couple of other fun things.
Lets assume for a second that they actually get their calculations right and they actually do manage to slow down the asteroid, they could mine the asteroid for what it is. The Chinese could theoretically make over 25 trillion dollars. That’s more than enough to pay down the entire U.S. National debt. Or in this case, make the Chinese twice as rich as the United States…
Via Tech Review