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Chinese Want To Capture an Asteroid

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the what-could-go-wrong? dept.

China 481

geekmansworld writes "The Chinese want to capture an asteroid into earth's orbit and mine it. From the article: 'At first glance, nudging an asteroid closer to Earth seems like one of those "what could possible go wrong" scenarios that we generally try and avoid, and for good reason: large asteroid impacts are bad times. The Chinese, though, seem fairly optimistic that they could tweak the orbit of a near-Earth asteroid by just enough (a change in velocity of only about 1,300 feet-per-second or so) to get it to temporarily enter Earth orbit at about twice the distance as the Moon.'"

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481 comments

China, don't get ahead of yourself. (1, Insightful)

suso (153703) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266490)

Since such a thing would be put the entire planet at risk, the world governments should tell China that they MUST share the resources for free if we all share the risk. Even in doing so, I think its not a good idea. Far too risky to be talking about it with our current under-developed space program. If we had the capability to launch vehicles on a day's notice and tow large objects around with ease, then that would be different. Better to either mine it where it is, or make it orbit Mars or something. 24 trillion per asteroid? I would think that would quite easily pay for a nice setup on Mars. They have to go to space anyways.

Of course at the same time, there is risk in them altering any asteroid trajectory at all.

One more thing China (0, Flamebait)

suso (153703) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266744)

*Stop port scanning me
*Stop sending me spam
*Stop trying to hack my servers
*Stop firewalling the Internet
*Stop polluting so much
*Stop allowing human trafficking
*Stop oppressing your people
*On and on...

If you can't get a handle on these things, have you any hope on controlling an asteroid?

Re:One more thing China (1)

pluther (647209) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266812)

How does doing or not doing any of those things have any effect on whether or not they can capture an asteroid?

Re:One more thing China (2)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266952)

How does doing or not doing any of those things have any effect on whether or not they can capture an asteroid?

Suso would like China to get their shit together regarding some of these more common failings before trying to snatch an asteroid out of the sky with their as-of-yet undeveloped space chopsticks.

Re:One more thing China (1)

lonelytrail (1741524) | more than 2 years ago | (#37267148)

*Stop port scanning me - State sanctioned activity... "get a handle on these things?" Success!
*Stop sending me spam - State sanctioned activity... "get a handle on these things?" Success!
*Stop trying to hack my servers - State sanctioned activity... "get a handle on these things?" Success!
*Stop firewalling the Internet - State sanctioned activity... "get a handle on these things?" Success!
*Stop polluting so much - State sanctioned activity... "get a handle on these things?" Success!
*Stop allowing human trafficking - eh
*Stop opblockquotessing your people - State sanctioned activity... "get a handle on these things?" Success!

So, all they have to do is stop human trafficking and they can shoot for the Asteroid? Hmmm. Something seems amiss.

Re:China, don't get ahead of yourself. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37266772)

Who's going to stop them?

Re:China, don't get ahead of yourself. (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266894)

There will be a war eventually. The only question is will it be with themselves or with other governments.

Re:China, don't get ahead of yourself. (1)

Trent Hawkins (1093109) | more than 2 years ago | (#37267010)

There will be a war eventually. The only question is will it be with themselves or with other governments.

Or robots from the future perhaps. Both are just as likely.

Re:China, don't get ahead of yourself. (5, Insightful)

dschl (57168) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266844)

I guess slashdot is running out of nerds who post anymore. I don't post much or read many comments here anymore, but when I saw the direction this was heading, I had to log in for the first time in ages.

The first few comments I saw were like the parent comment above - a bunch of bleating from a group of pussies who are still cowering after Sept 11, 2001, waiting for the gubermint to protect them from any and all potential harm or risk.

I grew up on sci-fi, reading about the possibilities - things humanity can do if it sets out to accomplish something grand. Bike helmets didn't exist, I ate dirt, skinned my knees climbing trees, and broke bones on (unsafe by today's standards) playground equipment. I dreamed of the stars, and of people inhabiting the entire solar system one day.

Which is worse - mining the asteroid belt or open pit mines in sensitive areas? I fully recognize that sci-fi has as much fantasy as science, but I recall novels from the 1980s that included LEO refining of asteroids, followed by dropping the materials down to earth by shaping them into gliders or capsules similar to those used in the Mercury program. There should be enough silica waste to make some heat-resistant tiles up there, and the metal can be foamed or made hollow to drop the density.

If the first few comments are representative of today's /. audience, no wonder CmdrTaco bailed.

Re:China, don't get ahead of yourself. (1)

yog (19073) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266950)

Many of the moderators here are incompetent, too.

A space elevator would help a lot with the economics of space mining. Of course, a space based industry would consume much of the mining output and eventually be self-sustaining if not self-sufficient.

The fact that an innocent little paper like this can cause a stir over here is indicative of people's fear that the U.S., and the industrial West in general, are about to be eclipsed by China's rising economy. If they can gain a foothold in space, they will definitely become the dominant power for the next century or two.

I believe it was a horrible mistake to (1) retire the Shuttle program so soon and (2) cancel its replacements in the Constellation and Orion programs. We need more of a national consensus to maintain a manned presence in space. $1 trillion for bailouts to a bunch of failed banks and car companies, and they cut a measly $5 billion needed to keep developing Constellation. Disgraceful.

Re:China, don't get ahead of yourself. (1)

Kenneth Stephen (1950) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266998)

Yes, the view looks great through those rose-tinted glasses. I did all those unsafe things you mentioned, but there is a big difference between doing all those things and what the Chinese are proposing. The only one who took the risk was me. If I screwed up, only I suffered. The consequences of failure in this grand scheme being concocted are not limited to China alone, and if we all take the risk, then we should all have a say in this endeavor, and we should all benefit from it.

This is somewhat like the BP oil spill. The spill may have occurred outside of US territorial waters, but it sure as hell impacted the US. And the US will certainly want a say in what oil companies do when drilling offshore, because of the fiasco we witnessed.

Re:China, don't get ahead of yourself. (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 2 years ago | (#37267070)

Yeah, agreed. The summary says "at first glance" it looks like a bad idea, but to me it looks like a bad idea the next few glances as well.

Try it out with Mars and Venus a couple times first... then we can talk.

Re:China, don't get ahead of yourself. (1)

Riceballsan (816702) | more than 2 years ago | (#37267002)

Well with all do respect, we are a planet known for screwing things up. As budgets, cost cutting etc continue to occor, we cause major catastrophes that cause worse case scenerios we didn't even think of. I mean face it we've been drilling for oil for centuries, and yet we still manage to ruin half a gulf without even coming up with a solution. Space projects, while america has a pretty good track record, I have a feeling china's results will be more like russia, 9/10 projects fail, only publicise the 10th. I have little fear of terrorism etc... mainly because I know that humanity as a species, screws up most of the time, and if they are trying to kill us and scare us, they will probably fail. I do have reason to question a for profit company that's first goals will be cutting costs to make it profitable, playing around with things that potentially can cause an extinction grade event.

Re:China, don't get ahead of yourself. (1, Interesting)

onepoint (301486) | more than 2 years ago | (#37267052)

Funny, somewhere in my memory, I think I read in Analog ( a sci-fi / fact magazine ) about a pissed off miner that made a huge egg type asteroid of the size of a very large city, and floated directly over a nations capital, as it floated slowly downward, the government had to move, since if they shot it down it would kill everybody quickly, and the goal was only to crush the capital and make every think about the action that they do.

Personally, I think china is looking to do this. Why... heavy bombing from space using a solid objects should only create blast/earthquake damage but no real radioactivity. I am not talking about the weather related events or other events ( global cooling ), just the radioactivity from a similar bast damage devices if it was a nuclear based design.

Re:China, don't get ahead of yourself. (1)

brit74 (831798) | more than 2 years ago | (#37267058)

Heh. Heh.

Question: Should you expose yourself to unnecessary risk for virtually no benefit?
Apparently, your answer is to say yes because it's dangerous, edgy, and shows humanity's balls.

I don't see much benefit from this. It's not like the Chinese are getting tons of valuable materials that don't exist on earth and it makes economic sense to send stuff to/from the asteroid (it's still expensive to get stuff into space). If the Chinese want something ambitious, tell them to go to the asteroid belt and mine stuff. That's more ambitious and less dangerous. It's also about as economically feasible (i.e. it's not).

Re:China, don't get ahead of yourself. (0)

toastar (573882) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266942)

um... It's only 10M wide. Even if it hit, who cares, The amount of damage is likely to be about on the scale of replacing a barn or two.

Nothing is free (1)

mj1856 (589031) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266954)

To follow your logic, we should all share the cost of the mission and the mining expenses?? I don't think so. If they are willing to take on the expense of making this happen, they should (and will) get the majority of the payout.

Re:China, don't get ahead of yourself. (1)

TwoTimer (1440973) | more than 2 years ago | (#37267008)

It will probably end up in Wal-Mart anyways...

Re:China, don't get ahead of yourself. (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 2 years ago | (#37267072)

Actually, everything in space is considered the "common province of mankind", which, however, is not defined as to what it actually means. This creates a sort of limbo situation, where no nation itself may exploit any space object, but this is not explicitly laid down anywhere. There exists a loophole, as the Outer Space Agreement only forbids territorial claims by sovereign nations, but not corporations or private persons, meaning that a company could legally take ownership of the asteroid for mining, but this is (still) incompatible with the Chinese economic mentality.
I actually dealt with this topic in my thesis, and I can say that the area is woefully under-researched.

Technically, there's a UN body (UNOOSA), that should be dealing with this sort of thing, but they've been pretty much inactive ever since the Outer Space Agreement entered into force. That body should be resurrected and empowered with much greater powers, including managing global launch registration and ownership of all extraterrestrial real estate.

Not worth the risk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37266496)

Obviously.

No wait! (0)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266512)

What? Tibet and maybe Taiwan isn't enough for them? Their claims on Okinawa are laughable though serious to them... and now they want an asteroid too? Their land-grabbing is just getting out of hand.

Re:No wait! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37266820)

Why is the Okinawa claim laughable? The island used to be part of the Chinese empire. Is the Japanese's claim on northern 4 islands laughable as well?

Re:No wait! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37267100)

Hong Kong used to be part of the Japanese Empire....what's your point?

CmdrTaco please come back... possible/possibly!? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37266522)

CmdrTaco please come back... possible/possibly!?

What could possible go wrong? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37266524)

Nothing possiblee could go wrong. Except for that.

Re:What could possible go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37266948)

Yeah, yeah. And if it was the good ol' almighty USA doing it, everything would go perfectly well, of course!

Re:What could possible go wrong? (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 2 years ago | (#37267110)

Yeah, yeah. And if it was the good ol' almighty USA doing it, everything would go perfectly well, of course!

Oh please - if it was America doing this we'd simply shoot the damn thing out of the sky and claim we were doing it for the children.

...and hold it without charge (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37266552)

indefinitely, in spite of international protests of its innocence

Chinese resource grab reaches new heights (2)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266556)

Why don't they park it in a Lagrange point?

So it can be JUST AS far away as the moon.

Re:Chinese resource grab reaches new heights (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37266846)

Errmmm... how do you propose getting it to stop at the Lagrange point? Magic and fairy farts?

Re:Chinese resource grab reaches new heights (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266930)

The same way you'd put anything else at a Lagrange point, I imagine: rockets? :)

Re:Chinese resource grab reaches new heights (1)

ODrive (538685) | more than 2 years ago | (#37267048)

Rockets? I don't think so. Nukes, maybe, but that's kinda iffy, from a control standpoint. Depends on the mass of the asteroid...

Re:Chinese resource grab reaches new heights (1)

bondsbw (888959) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266986)

It's easy. Just change the gravitational constant of the universe.

Re:Chinese resource grab reaches new heights (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37266958)

You seem to be lacking in your knowledge. First off, all of the Lagrange points are further from Earth than the moon. Secondly, while bodies can get caught up in the L-points, most manmade objects have to have constant course corrections done. Just putting an object in a Lagrange point is no guarantee that it will stay there. Also, consider that there is more dust and debris in the L-points than most other areas of space in the same neighborhood. That would increase risk and costs of the operation.
 
The Lagrange points are not the cure all that most people make them out to be.

University research paper. Bad Slashdot (5, Informative)

poity (465672) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266558)

It's a research paper. It's 2 guys looking at the possibility for the sake of their course grade/diploma. It doesn't mean there's a plan, or a will, or even a wish. Come on editors, click through your links and understand your articles before approving crappy summaries.

Re:University research paper. Bad Slashdot (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37266622)

And that will sell more ads how?

Re:University research paper. Bad Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37266698)

scenarios that we generally try and avoid,

(emphasis added)

Editors? More like not editors...

Re:University research paper. Bad Slashdot (1)

cultiv8 (1660093) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266718)

FTA:

A particularly good candidate is a 10-meter object called 2008EA9 which will pass within a million kilometres or so of Earth in 2049.

It might be a theoretical research paper, but isn't that how most projects start?

But let's just assume that these Chinese science dudes know exactly what they're doing and that they'll be able at some point to nudge one of these huge asteroids into temporary Earth orbit... they estimate that a two-kilometer-wide metallic asteroid (about 1.2 miles across) could be worth something like 25 trillion dollars

I'm sure they'll get funding from somewhere to continue research if 25,000,000,000,000 is on the line...

Re:University research paper. Bad Slashdot (1)

davmoo (63521) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266738)

Slashdot would not be Slashdot without the crappy summaries and all the comments by people who obviously did not RTFA.

Re:University research paper. Bad Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37266816)

In the good old times, summaries were not misleading.
In the good old times, people were fanatic open source libertarians scared to death about the latest move from M$.
I have no recollection of people RTFAing though

Re:University research paper. Bad Slashdot (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 2 years ago | (#37267056)

There's a FA?!?!?!

Re:University research paper. Bad Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37266822)

CmdrTaco's only been gone a few days and already you're trying to change the place into something unrecognizable. Have you no shame?

This "crappy summary" tendency is madness! (1)

Captain Sarcastic (109765) | more than 2 years ago | (#37267032)

This! Is! Slashdot!

Re:University research paper. Bad Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37267066)

Exactly. There's a rather huge difference between "a few chinese scientists" and "The Chinese". Huge, in this case, being almost all of The Chinese. In fact, until you know otherwise, you'd be safer claiming the opposite: "Chinese DO NOT Want to Capture an Asteroid".

Space junk (1)

FormOfActionBanana (966779) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266570)

Greeat, so China can muck up LEO with even more junk: wrenches, shovels and shit load of gravel, dust. We might be stuck here forever if the mining plan works out.

Re:Space junk (1)

pluther (647209) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266838)

"Twice the distance as the moon" <> "Low Earth Orbit"

Re:Space junk (1)

EnderDom (1934586) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266960)

All they need is two sticks and three diamonds and they'll be set.

U.S. Military Will Shit Bricks (2)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266580)

You want to get the U.S. federal government and military to invest in a technology like space mining? Tell them that China is going to be pulling an asteroid, essentially an orbital continental bomb, into Earth orbit in a controlled manner to "mine" it. I gaurantee you the DoD will start modding the OTV and any other space assets it has to wrangle some of their own asteroid "mines" into Earth orbit as well, conveniently positioned in an orbit that allows an impact point on top of China in the event of a de-orbit.

Re:U.S. Military Will Shit Bricks (1)

pluther (647209) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266864)

Yay! Bring back MAD!

"Project Damocles" lives!

Economic worth (2)

Dan East (318230) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266586)

What resource is of a high enough value to warrant the extreme costs of mining it in space and returning it to earth? The article just says "mining". Rare earth metals are about the only thing I can think of. Even something like diamonds (assuming they even exist in asteroids) wouldn't be worthwhile, because if you brought back a huge load of them then the value of diamonds as a global market will decrease because of the massive supply.

Re:Economic worth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37266730)

Silly you, there are more than enough diamonds on earth to devaluate the market. But take them off the market hidden in a vault, and voila, a brilliant long term revenue stream.

Re:Economic worth (2)

Hooya (518216) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266748)

> Even something like diamonds..

You may want to read the first line under this section: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diamonds_as_an_investment#Financial_feasibility [wikipedia.org]

The price you see for diamonds are because of controlled supply - NOT a limited supply. And you can thank these fine folks:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Beers#Legal_issues_on_monopolizing_and_fixing_prices [wikipedia.org]

Re:Economic worth (1)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266790)

Even diamonds it'd be cheaper to just make them here. It would have to be rare elements, as any alloy or compound would be cheaper to just make ourselves.

Unless you want to use the result in space itself, of course. Then you are comparing the cost of sending up the mining and manufacturing equipment vs. the cost of sending up the material itself.

Then of course is the question of whether the Moon might be a better mine: It won't take as much cost to get it to be in a usable location, and it's easier to maneuver on, with higher gravity. On the other hand, it's harder to get the material back off, because of that same higher gravity. (And it may be possible to find an asteroid with easier to reach large quantities of valuable material.)

Interesting as a paper, but I'd be highly skeptical if this would be a financially useful exercise.

Re:Economic worth (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266828)

Think on a very big amount of easy to extract iridium, platinum, many and many iron, manganese, titanium, and many others metals rare on earth but easy to find on metallic asteroids (many of the iron mines of the world are ancient asteroid impact sites). Minning asteroids is still a bad idea? And we have the tech (geostationary satellites), the actual problem is only how to scale to something big as a asteroid.

Re:Economic worth (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266970)

Damn, I forgot the most important reason to search as soon as mining asteroids: You are thinking only of the financial part of the idea... You can not build cars, airplanes and spacecraft with money, you need the metal that money buys. Banks can create money from the vacuum (debts are money), but anyone can create metals from the vacuum.

Re:Economic worth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37267038)

Manganese and titanium aren't rare, they just aren't cheap to mine. Even the other elements (such as platinum) wouldn't be worth it as the cost of mining them in space and returning and substantial amount would be far more expensive than just mining it on earth.

And iron mines are not from asteroid impacts, they are mostly from the banded iron deposit period when photosynthesis started. The sudden buildup of oxygen in the air led to the "rusting" of iron that was present in large amounts in sea water.

Re:Economic worth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37267062)

the actual problem is only how to scale to something big as a asteroid

According TFA, the candidate would be 10m wide; way smaller than the ISS.

Re:Economic worth (1)

gtwrek (208688) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266902)

The article doesn't say anything about returning the mined material to earth. I gotta think the intrinsic value of any mined material is worth much more in orbit rather than back down on Earth. Getting raw materials up into orbit is very expensive.

Re:Economic worth (3, Informative)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266910)

What resource is of a high enough value to warrant the extreme costs of mining it in space and returning it to earth?

Whyever would you return the output of your mine to Earth?

The primary value of a bug chunk of rock and metal in orbit is that it's cheaper to make things from it than to haul the same amount of metal into space.

Right now, one of our big limiters on space activity is that we have to move EVERYTHING out of a deep gravity well to get it into space at all. If we can eliminate the need to move, say, the structural mass of a solar power satellite into orbit, we can reduce the cost of solar power satellites by an order of magnitude or three.

Ditto anything else we want up there....

Yeah, well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37266596)

I'm still going with "what could possibly go wrong."

Use the Moon (1)

yog (19073) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266598)

Crash it on the moon instead, then mine the heck out of it. Or else orbit it around the moon and push the ore back to Earth.

Realistically, though, this stuff is going to need a space elevator [spaceelevator.com] to economically get the ore back down to Earth.

I used to believe those nations who control the skies will be the top powers, but now I think more likely it's those nations or corporations that control the ladders up to the skies that will really hold all the cards.

Re:Use the Moon (0)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266800)

Time to invest in Equador? (One of the best places to build a space elevator.)

Re:Use the Moon (1)

yog (19073) | more than 2 years ago | (#37267046)

Time to invest in Equador? (One of the best places to build a space elevator.)

A wonderful Freudian slip, since Ecuador is on the equator. The Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] entry on this subject has some interesting alternatives such as a sea-based anchor station. Probably putting the base far out to sea would be a little safer in case something fell off the cable from high up.

Tremendous engineering project that will truly change the world. I hope they get it off the ground in our lifetimes.

Re:Use the Moon (1)

larkost (79011) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266924)

Getting stuff down is not going to be a real problem. If we are talking about mining metals then you could go ultra-simple and just make a big ingot and then carefully shoot it at a desolate area (like the Mongolian steps). Shoot a number of (refined in space and uniformly finished) chunks at an area, then wait until they have cooled enough and go and get them. You would lose some of the materials from the re-entry heating, but that probably would wind up as a rounding error on a balance sheet.

You could even setup manufacturing cheap one-use de-orbiters from the materials in the asteroid for more valuable (or less durable) cargo. Ship up a few specialty parts (electronics and maybe thrusters) and build the rest in-orbit (does require a lot of technology we don't yet have for manufacturing in space).

Of course this would mean that you would have created an orbital bombardment cannon, and opens a large can of worms both from a strategic balance standpoint and a potential terrorist weapon.

room for one billion more... (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 2 years ago | (#37267088)

to economically ^W get the ore back down to Earth.

That's just silly talk. Obviously a big part of the value of this material is that it is already in space.

Use it in orbit (1)

Zorpheus (857617) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266604)

I think the interesting point is to have these resources in orbit. so this can be used the build space ships or a really big station.
Bringing it down to earth is probably expensive, but using it in space would save the fuel needed to bring that material up.

It's less interesting if you RTFA (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266610)

A 10m object. Even if there were a non-destructive way to get the material earthside, there wouldn't be enough material to make it worth while. It's a mighty expensive technology demo, otherwise.

Re:It's less interesting if you RTFA (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266768)

the plan is to move up to 1 mile asteroids. those would have MUCH material. might crash metal markets on earth too, but having the real thing is better than the paper pyramid scams built on metals with over 10 times the money locked up.

Just... wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37266620)

The Ballistic Missile Defense System has nothing against this.

The true story (2)

WoOS (28173) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266646)

How did
        Two Chinese scientists propose to nudge a ten-meter asteroid nearing earth in 2049 into an earth orbit
transform into
        "The Chinese want to capture an asteroid into earth's orbit and mine it" ?

Re:The true story (1)

j33px0r (722130) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266696)

How did Two Chinese scientists propose to nudge a ten-meter asteroid nearing earth in 2049 into an earth orbit transform into "The Chinese want to capture an asteroid into earth's orbit and mine it" ?

Well, the article does say "This nudge should place the asteroid in an orbit at about twice the distance of the Moon. From there it can be studied and mined, they say."

Even Chinese must obey laws... (1)

starglider29a (719559) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266650)

of Orbital Mechanics. Physics, too... when convenient.
  1. Let's start with the mass of this asteroid, so we can determine the VAST amount of energy it will take to "nudge it." Recall that the 365-foot Saturn V pushed a capsule the size of a VW Bug.
  2. Secondly, note the orbital change is a plane change, which takes orders of magnitude more Delta-V than an in-plane maneuver.
  3. Thirdly, what will they gain from this rock that will be worth the effort, energy, money, and risk to the planet?
    Sure, mining asteroids is a great idea, in principle, but not in theory.

Re:Even Chinese must obey laws... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266740)

Makes great science fiction settings.

and then Dr. Fu Barr was chomped by the alien, transmogrified into a hybrid human-alien and started to attack the miners ...

Re:Even Chinese must obey laws... (1)

shogun (657) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266850)

of Orbital Mechanics. Physics, too... when convenient.

  1. Let's start with the mass of this asteroid, so we can determine the VAST amount of energy it will take to "nudge it." Recall that the 365-foot Saturn V pushed a capsule the size of a VW Bug.

Simple, park a few solar powered ion thrusters on the asteroid, turn them on in the required direction(s) and leave them going for for however long it takes to adjust the orbit enough....

Re:Even Chinese must obey laws... (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266996)

Exactly. The only reason you need a large rocket to get things off of Earth is that you have to overcome gravity losses. Once you're far enough out of the gravity well, ion engines and other electric propulsion are very efficient. No need for a Saturn-scale rocket.

Re:Even Chinese must obey laws... (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 2 years ago | (#37267064)

The Saturn V needed to push that VW-sized object out of a significant gravity well. In the proposed scenario, the gravity well would be acting in favor of rather than against the goal (albeit very attenuated by distance). Yes, changing the velocity of the mass is still significant, but you want to talk about orders of magnitude, taking something from sea level to escape is ridiculous to contrast with something already in orbit.

And if you RTFA, you'll find that the object is only 10 meters, and would be done more as an experiment and proof-of-concept than for profit.

Re:Even Chinese must obey laws... (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#37267096)

Recall that the 365-foot Saturn V pushed a capsule the size of a VW Bug.

Actually, the 365-foot Saturn V put more than 150 tons in LEO. And about 45 tons of that went on to the moon.

Secondly, note the orbital change is a plane change, which takes orders of magnitude more Delta-V than an in-plane maneuver.

No. More, depending on the exact orbit in question, but not "orders of magnitude more".

Thirdly, what will they gain from this rock that will be worth the effort, energy, money, and risk to the planet?

Let's see. a couple billion tons of metal in high earth orbit. Which obviates the need to launch six million Saturn V's to get the same amount of metal up there.

At $1000/kg into LEO, a metallic asteroid one mile in diameter ought to be worth about $10,000 TRILLION dollars.

It should also be noted that once we've developed and demonstrated a method for moving an asteroid into Earth orbit, we've also demonstrated a method for diverting an asteroid from hitting Earth.

Sure, mining asteroids is a great idea, in principle, but not in theory.

Mining asteroids opens up the solar system. No meaningful attempts to extend our reach beyond this rock we live on is going to amount to a hill of beans till we start making use of the raw materials that are already out of Earth's gravity well.

So as you mine it .. (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266704)

You must provide thrust in accelerate the mass to the appropriate velocity to maintain steady orbit.

Are they kidding?

Sure, but... (1)

cmeans (81143) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266720)

even if they do get it into a stable orbit around us, what's to stop something else (another asteroid) that we'd usually not worry about (because it wasn't going to come too close) going ahead and hitting the orbiting asteroid, and possibly sending it our way (or just destabilizing it's orbit).

I guess there's lots of things they could do...but all of them have risks...does the reward out-weigh the risk (and the effort)?

Re:Sure, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37267084)

Asteroids are really tiny and space is very big, it's not going to get hit by another asteroid that's just absurd.

Not the Chinese (1, Informative)

jdavidb (449077) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266728)

The headline makes it sound like this is a plan of the Chinese government, or a desire of the Chinese people as a whole. Instead, according to the article, it's an idea from two researchers at a Chinese university. It is just an idea at this stage, not something anybody has expressed a desire to do.

If it was "black people" or "the Jews" instead of "the Chinese," we would be offended by this headline. But since the Chinese government is unpopular in America, it's a good chance to take a subtle and unwarranted jab at "those crazy Chinese, who will probably kill us all."

Re:Not the Chinese (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#37267146)

If it was "black people" or "the Jews" instead of "the Chinese," we would be offended by this headline. But since the Chinese government is unpopular in America, it's a good chance to take a subtle and unwarranted jab at "those crazy Chinese, who will probably kill us all."

If it was "black people" or "the Jews", I'd think someone was joking.

Since it's the Chinese, my first thought is that they're way farther from being able to do this than they think, but that WHEN they do this, it'll be pretty cool.

I smell "Panda Poo." (1)

biditm (2446434) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266756)

Ignore the "capture an asteroid... and mine it." Chinese propaganda. The Chinese have uncovered an ancient recipe for building weapons of ass destruction. This recipe requires gobs and gobs of "Panda Poo" and an "Asteroid."

"Chinese Want To Capture an Ass." (1)

biditm (2446434) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266872)

After talking with my dog, I believe there is a typo in the headling of this story; it should read, "The Chinese Want To Capture an ASS."

100% capture rate (1)

kakyoin01 (2040114) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266832)

Just throw a Master Ball, problem solved. I'm sure they'd try to use one of the cheap plastic ripoffs that's made in China, though.

Additional Pokemon/Slashdot pun for good measure: China used Asteroid Mining! Bitcoins scattered everywhere!

minecraft (1)

islon (1864460) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266854)

This minecraft hype went too far, we should stop it.

Can be used as a weapon... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37266866)

One large asteriod can destroy all life on the planet, but a refrigerator or bus-sized asteroid can destroy a town or a city, which cannot be stopped.

Great way of holding the world ransom... threatening death via asteroid.

Mining will eventually be undertaken in the next 100 years or so, but it will only partake within the asteroid belt or near some other planet.

Good Idea, More Ammo for the Republicans (1)

Mr.Bananas (851193) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266932)

Now they can threaten to crash asteroids into the earth if we don't agree to cutting treasonous federal spending!

Re:Good Idea, More Ammo for the Republicans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37267106)

Now they can threaten to crash asteroids into the earth if we don't agree to cutting treasonous federal spending!

So I take it you agree with all $2.7 trillion in federal spending each year? Remember, government spending and the size of the bureaucracy is now considerably larger than it was under Clinton.

Morons. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37266938)

"try and avoid"?? Stupid people with stupid grammar mistakes. That's much better stated as "try to avoid". Learn from it and don't make anymore mistakes my 6-year-old wouldn't make. Thanks.

Better yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37266968)

Just crash it into your homeland. That way you can see what effect your current resource policies have on your own nation - and haphazardly the rest of the world.

I was just talking about this the other day (1)

bfwebster (90513) | more than 2 years ago | (#37266980)

I was out to lunch with a group of people and the subject of space exploration came up. Having worked at NASA and LPI (albeit 30 years ago), I expressed my various opinions (e.g., the Shuttle was a mistake and we lost 30-40 years by NASA's hindering private enterprises from space launch systems). The subject of mining asteroids came up; I said that it could provide some long-term benefits, but I would be very, very leery about moving an asteroid into near-Earth orbit, for all the obvious reasons.

That said, moving a 10-meter asteroid into earth orbit carries (IMHO) relatively few risks. ..bruce..

Oh COME ON People (2)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#37267042)

This is Slashdot. We are technology and sci fi enthusiasts. This idea gives me a cerebral boner, it gets me excited, fills me with awe at human endeavour. And if you don't feel the same way, what the bleep are you doing posting on Slashdot?

Also, I'm not a dumb chest thumping tribal nationalist, so if the Chinese should be able to do it, credit to them, I bow before their accomplishment, and sour grapes is really not the bleeping point.

Finally, if all you can do is whine about fear and lack of trust in technical acumen and science and an unhealthy aversion to modest risk, with a brain informed more by Michael Bay movies than actual fucking science and tech, then you really are posting on the wrong fucking site, and frankly, sign off and fuck off and stop polluting these forums with your feeble mind.

so if we can pull it out of orbit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37267050)

Wouldnt the comet pull us out of orbit?

SpaceDev. Again. (1)

Sebastopol (189276) | more than 2 years ago | (#37267078)

In 1997 Jim Benson formed a company called SpaceDev, with the primary intent of doing exactly this. They funded their main R&D through microsatellite launches. Sadly, Benson died in the early 2000's and the company was bought out. I invested quite a bit and was hopeful for the future.

K. Eric Drexler and L5 figured this out long ago (1)

dotmax (642602) | more than 2 years ago | (#37267112)

I remember, as an ardent newcomer to L5, talking about exactly this sort of thing with Eric Drexler in a park somewhere in the Bay Area, back in 1983. What the heck, good luck to the Chinese. Maybe they'll even do it. (although the delta-V required is truly staggering, even for the kind of intercept described)

Titan (1)

0111 1110 (518466) | more than 2 years ago | (#37267118)

1. Read a Stephen Baxter novel and get an idea.
2. Find exactly the right size asteroid and change it's orbit to collide with Earth at a point near Washington D.C.
3. Use a cover story about mining the asteroid even though that makes no economic sense. The same minerals can be found on Earth.
4. Accept the gratitude of the rest of the world.
5. Claim the giant crater where the U.S. used to be for the People's Republic of China.
6. ???
7. Profit.

Asteroid Mining (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37267126)

Sure it would be worth a heck of a lot of money on earth, but it would not be on earth. Getting it down to earth would be very expensive, and dangerous. Having large chunks of metal ready to be dropped to the earth would be a lot like having a large number of nuclear weapons in orbit, only it would not leave a nuclear wasteland and people could rationally use it to conquer land. Not a good idea.

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