Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Long overlooked as mere rocky chunks leftover from the formation of the solar system, asteroids have recently gotten a lot more scrutiny as NASA moves forward with plans to capture, tow, and place a small asteroid somewhere near our planet. Two different private space companies, Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, plan to seek out and mine precious metals and water from near-Earth asteroids. Now Adam Mann reports that astronomers have identified 12 candidate Easily Retrievable Objects (EROs) ranging in size from approximately 2 meters to 60 meters in diameter that already come (cosmically) close enough to our planet — close enough that it would take a relatively small push to put them into orbits at Lagrange points near Earth using existing rocket technology. For example, 2006 RH120 could be sent into orbit at L2 by changing its velocity by just 58 meters per second with a single burn on 1 February 2021. Moving one of these EROs would be a 'logical stepping stone towards more ambitious scenarios of asteroid exploration and exploitation, and possibly the easiest feasible attempt for humans to modify the Solar System environment outside of Earth (PDF),' write the authors in Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy. None of the 12 ERO asteroids are new to astronomers; in fact, one of them became briefly famous when it was found to be temporarily orbiting the Earth until 2007. But until now nobody had realized just how easily these bodies could be captured."
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