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Scientists want to coax asteroids closer and dig out their minerals

Using the Earth's atmosphere to catch incoming resource-rich rocks is surprisingly plausible. Just don't let them land.

Brit Prepares To Save The World From Armageddon

There are plenty of resources in the asteroids surrounding Earth.

Barcroft / Getty Images

If Armageddon and Deep Impact have taught us one thing, it's that we don't want asteroids anywhere near Earth. Period.

But that's exactly what engineers from the University of Glasgow in the UK are proposing. The three engineers, Tan Minghu,  Colin McInnes and Matteo Ceriotti have published a study that uses aerobraking, the science of using the drag from the Earth's atmosphere to slow down incoming asteroids into an orbit instead of missing the planet completely, reports Science.

The plan would involve nudging asteroids million of miles away with an unmanned spacecraft, and mining the resulting orbital rocks for materials including platinum, or even water. These rocks can also serve as supply posts for space stations.

Of course, Hollywood has already given us an inkling of why sending asteroids near Earth could be a bad idea. Science spoke to experts, who indicated that this practice could lead to a crash. The published study does, however, recommend only nudging rocks no larger than 30 meters in size, which would burn down if they missed and hit the lower atmosphere of the planet.

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