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China Space Science

Chinese Want To Capture an Asteroid 481

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-could-go-wrong? dept.
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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Chinese Want To Capture an Asteroid

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  • by poity (465672) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @12:34PM (#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.

  • Not the Chinese (Score:2, Informative)

    by jdavidb (449077) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @12:45PM (#37266728) Homepage Journal

    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:Economic worth (Score:4, Informative)

    by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @12:57PM (#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....

  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @01:43PM (#37267604)

    This isn't 'The Chinese' (as in the Government) its some Chinese guys at a university in Beijing with a crazy idea they posted on Arxiv. Arxiv is not the place that the Chinese government will be posting their world domination plans.

    Do you really think that this type of endeavor could ever take place without governmental involvement? The resources required would be astronomical ... and any government worth their salt would milk this for every drop of national pride (and then some).

    This can't happen without the government getting involved because "Two Guys From a Chinese University" is not a viable entity for this type of operation.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @02:10PM (#37267950)
    Would you please stop the incessant bullshit about China eclipsing the US in anything. They rely on the US for 1/3 of their export market and the thing is they don't supply anything the US cannot make domestically or get somewhere else. In fact their reliance on the US for food imports has increased by a factor of 5 over the past 6 years. Inflation is raising their export their costs faster than they can manipulate their currency to keep pace. With higher export costs they lose the only advantage they ever had in international trade which was low export prices made possible by cheap labor costs. They certainly aren't known for exporting innovations or quality. They have already started reporting a trade deficit after years of surpluses due in part because of the other emerging Asian countries capable of competing with them. Oh and by the way the US still leads the world in GDP and is still the top manufacturer in the world as well. The gaps are not as wide as they used to be but that is to be expected as more countries get their shit together and enter the International markets.
  • by Artifakt (700173) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @02:12PM (#37267982)

    First off, all of the Lagrange points are further from Earth than the moon.

    Not quite.
    Notice this diagram of the earth-moon system at:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagrangian_point [wikipedia.org]

    Points L3, L4 and L5 are all at very nearly the same distance as the moon. L1 is actually closer. Only L2 is significantly farther away. Technically, the more the biggest body is larger than the secondary, the more the 3, 4, and 5 points will tend to fall slightly beyond the secondary's orbit, So for the Sun-Earth system, the L3, L4, and L5 are slightly outside Earth's orbit. But, the Earth is not as much proportionately greater than the Moon, and the 'points' are actually larger than pure points so for the Earth-Moon system, L#, 4, and 5 fall partly inside and partly outside the Moon's orbit.

    You are, however, quite right that putting an object at a Lagrangian point doesn't keep it there. The range of velocities that are even semi-stable is pretty narrow, and for points L1, L2, and L3, the stability is in a plane perpendicular to the two major bodies, and there really is no gain in stability along the line between them, Every time we have parked a satellite at one of these points, it has been by using station keeping thrusters to give it an occasional nudge to keep it there. It's cheap on thrust, but not free. You're also right that the points have naturally attracted stuff already and tend to be cluttered spots. I don't know if that really affects costs or risks - there have been solar observation satellite missions to the sun-earth Lagrangian points, where the same problems should apply, and these have worked well so far.
    Because the orbits of the various major bodies are elliptical, the Lagrangians aren't really points. If there weren't other planets and such around, the orbits would be roughly kidney bean shaped, but since there are, objects tend to be pretty close to stable in complex orbits called Lissajous orbits. Making those fairly large may be a way to avoid some debris.

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