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Capture Asteroids In A Bag

NASA is still pondering this bold plan to actually capture a 500 ton asteroid in a giant bag, and return it to Earth orbit.


(How to catch an asteroid)

A 2012 Keck Institute study described an Asteroid Capture and Return (ACR) spacecraft capable of intercepting an asteroid. A 50-foot (15 meters) capture bag would enclose the asteroid and allow the spacecraft to maneuver the rock in space by firing its rocket engines.

The spacecraft’s main propulsion would be provided by Hall-effect thrusters. This is a type of ion engine in which the fuel (xenon gas) is accelerated by an electric field. Ion engines produce moderate thrust, but can be fired for a long time to build up acceleration.

To move the asteroid, the spacecraft would first be launched from Earth on an Atlas 5 rocket, slowly spiraling away into space for 2.2 years. Then it gets a gravity slingshot boost from the moon and heads out into deep space.

The spacecraft cruises for 1.7 years until it reaches the target asteroid. Operations at the asteroid take about 90 days. The capture bag is deployed, and once secured, the asteroid is stabilized for towing.

The cruise back to the vicinity of the Earth takes two to six years.


(How NASA Could Do It)

The basic idea for asteroid capture was described in a 1947 science fiction story by V.E. Thiessen. In Asteroid Justice, he describes asteroid nets:

Through the left lower quadrant of the transparent nose he saw one of the nets flare into quick acceleration. It was too far away to be his own, and he watched it, each corner of the net a flaming ribbon of rocket fire in the velvet black of space...

But she was soon catching up. With her remote controls she was slowing the rockets of the net, as she increased her own speed. In a few minutes both ship and netted meteor would be hanging motionless alongside, the meteor caught and halted just as a small boy catches a swift ball in his cap.
(Read more about asteroid nets)

But what can you legally do with your captured asteroid?

Via Space.com.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/23/2021)

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