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…