Aerospace engineers have reportedly identified 12 different asteroid candidates they feel we can actually capture and bring back to Earth. Right now. With existing technology. Scientists are already researching ways to find and deflect near-Earth asteroids, but why not actually lasso one instead? For science, of course. It sounds like an insane person’s idea, but NASA has already detailed plans to capture an asteroid and place it near our planet, so seemingly the scientific community knows what it’s doing.
How would something like this even work? According to three engineers from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, scientists may be able to push an asteroid, identified as an Easily Retrievable Object (ERO), into Lagrange points near Earth. Pushing them into the Lagrange points would put the EROs under the gravitational influence of Earth without expending too much energy, according to Wired, giving us the opportunity for greater asteroid exploration and exploitation.
The engineers feel that a single rocket burn could push a candidate such as 2006 RH120 into a Lagrange Point, allowing us to send a team up to study. Scientists still aren’t 100 percent sure if the 12 identified candidates are actual asteroids—they could be fragments—but if they are actual asteroids, we may potentially be able to mine them.
Engineers say the potential plan could happen with existing technology, but do admit things can backfire if calculations are off. Still, Scientists wouldn’t study anything big enough to do any significant damage to Earth, meaning we likely won’t eventually shoot an asteroid right into our own backyard.