Earth’s mini-moons: Could they make Us Interplanetary?

The distance between the Earth and the Moon is about 400,000 km. Despite this distance, they maintain their relationship. While the other planets of the solar system have about 100-150 satellites, the most important one for Earth is the sapphire moon. However, the world is ever-changing, and major changes have been indicated in the space. Recently, small satellite-like objects have been found orbiting the Earth. These objects are called “mini-moons.”

The Catalina Sky Survey by NASA detected a cosmic object orbiting the Earth in 2006. This object, named 2006 RH120, was found to be naturally occurring and not a remnant of artificial satellites. It temporarily began to orbit the Earth after experiencing a strong shock. It was only a few meters in diameter and orbited the Earth for just one year before falling out.

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Over a decade later, another minimoon was discovered named the 2020 CD2, with a similar volume to that of a car. It also fell out of the Earth’s and Moon’s impact zones in March 2020. The proximity of these minimoons to Earth has sparked curiosity, and researchers have begun studying them and searching for near-Earth asteroids. The hope is that this research will aid in space exploration, making humans an interplanetary species capable of traveling to other planets.

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Richard Binzel, a planetologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, believes that these mini-moons could help in building a colony on Mars in the future. Scientists are interested in studying the composition of minimoons and investigating whether they can be used for refueling in space. NASA launched the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft in 2016 to collect samples from the asteroid Bennu, which is likely to hit Earth by 2182. The spacecraft will return in 2023 with a sample of around 4.5 billion years old. This sampling initiative has been started again because scientists believe that minimoons are more likely to hit the Earth than asteroids due to their unpredictable movements.

This news is a creative derivative product from articles published in famous peer-reviewed journals and Govt reports:

1. Jedicke, R., Bolin, B. T., Bottke, W. F., Chyba, M., Fedorets, G., Granvik, M., … & Urrutxua, H. (2018). Earth’s Minimoons: Opportunities for science and technology. Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences, 13.
2. Astakhov, S. A., Burbanks, A. D., Wiggins, S., and Farrelly, D. (2003). Chaos-assisted capture of irregular moons. Nature 423, 264–267.
3. Bao, C., Yang, H., Barsbold, B., and Baoyin, H. (2015). Capturing near-earth asteroids into bounded earth orbits using gravity assist. Astrophys. Space Sci. 360:61.
4. Baoyin, H.-X., Chen, Y., and Li, J.-F. (2010). Capturing near earth objects. Res. Astron. Astrophys. 10:587.
5. Bottke, W. F., Morbidelli, A., Jedicke, R., Petit, J.-M., Levison, H. F., Michel, P., et al. (2002). Debiased orbital and absolute magnitude distribution of the near-earth objects. Icarus 156, 399–433.

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