Life Imitates Art #9845761: Splat

NASA Mars orbiter examines dramatic new crater.

Impressive. Now, imagine a few dozen of these happening. At the same time. I just drafted that scene last weekend…

I find it a bit surprising that this sort of thing (to various magnitudes) happens about 200 times per year. Not that it should be all that surprising, considering it probably happens on Earth as well – the rocks just don’t reach the surface thanks to our atmosphere. Surprising because one tends to think of Mars as a completely dead planet, where nothing much happens.

As we continue to explore and eventually settle the place, we’re bound to find out it’s nowhere near as dead as it seems. Something important to keep in mind with regards to writing fiction set on Mars – your characters are likely going to have to outrun a water outburst or dodge a meteoroid every now and then, and who knows what else.

Life Imitates Art: Planetary Resources

Looks like some big-name entrepreneurs are teaming up to pioneer asteroid mining – Planetary Resources:

Planetary Resources’ mission is clear: apply commercial, innovative techniques to explore space. We will develop low-cost robotic spacecraft to explore the thousands of resource-rich asteroids within our reach. We will learn everything we can about them, then develop the most efficient capabilities to deliver these resources directly to both space-based and terrestrial customers. Asteroid mining may sound like fiction, but it’s just science.

It does indeed sound like fiction. Readers of In the Shadow of Ares will recall a brief aside concerning Eleanor, an asteroid being moved into Mars orbit for mining purposes by a company called the Renaissance Project. Notice that we even got the initials right (just in the opposite order).

What makes this coincidental connection all the more interesting is that we will be seeing a lot more of Eleanor at the beginning of the sequel…along with questions of ownership, liability, and economics similar to those being asked about today’s announcement.


Life Imitates Art: Moving Asteroids

There is a moment very early on in In the Shadow of Ares where Amber and her refer in passing to an asteroid, Eleanor, which for several years had been gradually nudged to an eventual orbit around Mars for future mining.

It looks like someone is looking at a similar idea for Earth-crossing NEOs – A Plan To Place An Asteroid In Earth Orbit:

Could a similar thing happen to Earth, ask Baoyin and co. Having studied the orbits of the 6000 known near Earth objects (NEO), they say the short answer is no. None of them will come close enough for Earth to capture.

However, a few of these objects will come maddeningly close. So near, in fact, that a small nudge would send them into Earth orbit. “When such an NEO approaches Earth, it is possible to change its orbit energy…to make the NEO become a small satellite of the Earth,” they say.

A particularly good candidate is a 10-meter object called 2008EA9 which will pass within a million kilometres or so of Earth in 2049. 2008EA9 has a very similar orbital velocity as Earth’s. Baoyin and co calculate that it could be fired into Earth orbit by changing its velocity by 410 metres per second. That’s tiny.

This nudge should place the asteroid in an orbit at about twice the distance of the Moon. From there it can be studied and mined, they say.

There’s a reason we inserted that throwaway reference in In The Shadow of Ares. You’ll see why in the second book…