Retrieving an asteroid

asteroidAsteroids (or comets) whose orbits bring them close to the earth’s orbit are called near Earth objects. Some of them are old, dating from the origins of the solar system about four and one-half billion years ago, and expected to be rich in primitive materials. They are of great interest to scientists studying the young solar system. Others, of lower scientific priority, are thought to contain minerals of potential economic value.

NASA has announced its interest in sending a manned mission to a near Earth object. The NASA Asteroid Robotic Retrieval Mission concept involves the capture of an asteroid, and dragging it onto a new trajectory that traps it in the Earth–Moon system where it will be further investigated by astronauts. The current mission design requires the target asteroid to have a diameter of seven to ten meters. The object NEO 2009BD is a prime candidate for this retrieval mission. It was discovered on January 16, 2009, at a distance from the Earth of only 0.008 AU (one AU is the average distance of the Earth from the Sun). Its orbit is very Earth–like, with a period of 400 days, and it will end up close to the Earth–Moon system again in late 2022 when the proposed capture would take place. It seems to be a perfect candidate, with a time frame that allows for proper mission planning. Via Retrieving an asteroid.

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