Planetary Resources just wrapped up a press conference in Seattle, officially announcing both its existence and its ambitious plan to mine near-Earth asteroids. We were listening in live, and here's everything you need to know about how this asteroid mining plan is going to work and when it's going to happen.
Asteroids aren't something to be concerned about on a day to day basis, but once every couple hundred years or so, we get hit with a doozy. The last one hit Siberia in 1908, so it's about time to start to come up with a defense plan, and one new idea involves a bunch of tiny satellites with solar-powered lasers.
When boring people like you and I go on vacation, we might go camping in the woods or something. But not NASA. NASA goes camping on a virtual asteroid. And the worst part is that NASA didn't actually have to take any time off: asteroid camping (among other things) is what it does for a living. Asteroid camping. Not fair.
You can't hear a meteor as it burns up in the atmosphere, but you can bounce radar off of it and convert that signal into sound. The U.S. Air Force Space Surveillance Radar in Texas tried this during the Perseid meteor shower, and the resulting recording sounds appropriately alien.
Today we can all breathe a little easier thanks to a new survey of near-earth asteroids by NASA's Wide-field Infared Survey Explorer (WISE). After a year of scanning the celestial sky with infrared light between January 2010 and February 2011, the study has shown there are significantly fewer mid-size near-Earth asteroids than thought. That's not even the best news.
The Dawn spacecraft has only been orbiting Vesta for a few months now, but it's been taking scads of pictures and streaming them straight back to Earth. Among the highlights are these spectacular oblique images of the asteroid's dramatic topography. Check out some of our favorites from the most recent imagery release in the gallery below.
Don't look now, but our entire planet is busily chasing after an asteroid a thousand feet across that's preceding the Earth in its orbit. It's the first known Earth-orbit example of what are called Trojans, and like other promiscuous planets (I'm looking at you, Jupiter), it now appears that Earth's got 'em.
Earlier this afternoon, an asteroid came reeeeeal close to hitting Earth. How close? It was well within the orbits of our GPS satellites. Yeah, that close.
If you're a fan of classic video games, you'll know that Asteroids was one of the most addictive games of the early 1980s. Zapping the never ending stream of encroaching rocks would get your adrenaline pumping better than most games of the era.
Getting to Mars is going to involve building a huge spacecraft and loading it up with tons of fuel and radiation shielding. Unless, that is, we could just tag along with a spacecraft that's already headed in that direction, like an asteroid.