Engineers Identify 12 Easily Retrievable Asteroids

The authors of a newly published scientific paper have identified a dozen asteroids that can be easily moved to stable locations near Earth for scientific investigation and mining using current technologies.

“This paper has shown that the retrieval of a full asteroid is well within today’s technological capabilities, and that there exists a series of objects with potential to be temporarily captured into libration point orbits,” the three authors write. “We define these objects as Easily Retrievable Objects (EROs)….Indeed, the paper presents a list of 12 EROs, with a total of 25 trajectories to periodic orbits near L2 and 6 near L1 below a cost of 500 m/s, and the number of these objects is expected to grow considerably in the coming years.”

The findings will give a boost to NASA’s controversial plan to capture an asteroid and to send astronauts to explore it. Members of Congress have been skeptical of the proposal, preferring to send humans back to the Moon instead.

The authors — D. García Yárnoz, J.P. Sanchez and C.R. McInnes — published their paper in the August issue of Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy. They see asteroid capture as a boon to scientific investigation and human space activities.

“Taking advantage of these transfer opportunities and the unique dynamical characteristics of the identified EROs, the science return of asteroid missions can be greatly improved, and the utilisation of asteroid resources may become a viable mean of providing substantial mass in Earth orbit for future space ventures,” the authors write.