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NASA wants to rope in an asteroid around the moon. It’s like a pet moon for the moon.

Asteroid mining will be here before you know it, but instead of sending wild mountain men into the asteroid belt, the best idea seems to be to rope an asteroid in closer. The Chinese want to pull one into Earth’s orbit, but NASA has a safer idea— pulling an asteroid into the moon’s orbit. It’s close, and if something goes wrong, you crash on the moon.

The reasons for doing this are many. For one, a manned mission beyond the moon to a faraway asteroid would likely take six months or more to reach even the closest passing asteroid of interest. During that time out from under the protective umbrella of Earth’s magnetic field, astronauts would be exposed to long periods of cosmic radiation—the effects of which aren’t exactly defined. Moreover, it would be costly, dangerous, and might not yield that much scientific benefit. But an asteroid in orbit around the moon meshes well with some other initiatives NASA has cooking, including placing a fixed space station at a Lagrange point on the far side of the moon from which human inhabitants could tele-robotically explore the moon (and, if available, an asteroid).

Technology, Clay Dillow, asteroid mining, asteroids, keck institute, nasa, SpaceThe Keck concept calls for an Atlas V rocket to launch a slow-moving, solar/ion powered spacecraft toward a rendezvous with a target asteroid. This wouldn’t be an Earth killer or anything even close—the Keck study calls for something in 20-25 feet wide. The spacecraft would then literally haul the asteroid in a huge bag back to lunar orbit. Total mission duration: six to 10 years.

NASA’s not the first entity to speak seriously of moving asteroids into more favorable orbits for human observation (and consumption). Last year billionaire-backed private space startup Planetary Resources announced an ambitious agenda to explore and mine minerals from asteroids, including potentially moving a target asteroid from deep space into an orbit more accessible to mining robots. The idea is not only to extract minerals for export back to earth, but also to create “orbital gas stations” where water ice on asteroids could be processed into hydrogen and oxygen to refuel rockets in space. That’s an idea that’s also been kicked around NASA over the years where the future of deep space travel is concerned. Pulling a small asteroid into lunar orbit would be a good start.

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    I don’t think you understand. This is revolutionary! We’re going to need to train space cowboys!
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    Nerd Fact: there are already plans since 1800 for a circum luna or moon moon. After Joseph-Louis Lagrange discovered the...
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