‘Minimoons’ May Help Us Become An Interplanetary Species, Scientists Claim


Kay Smythe News and Commentary Writer
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Analysis published Saturday detailed how “minimoons” may help humans become an interplanetary species in the future.

Back in 2006, the NASA-supported Catalina Sky Survey found something bizarre orbiting Earth: a natural satellite dragged into our little backyard in the cosmos in a similar way to our moon, Live Science described. Colloquially known as a “minimoon,” this celestial body was reportedly just a few meters in diameter, and only stuck around our orbit for about a year before wandering off into the depths of space.

Fourteen years later, Catalina Sky Survey spotted another minimoon, roughly the size of a car, which hung around Earth until it was “flung out” of our orbit in March 2020, according to Live Science. While some of these minimoons have reportedly caused concern over risks of direct collisions with Earth, or even our moon (which would also have dire consequences for the planet), these space rocks could also be useful in helping us humans become an interplanetary species, some experts say.

“To go anywhere in space, you have to change your velocity,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Professor Richard Binzel told Live Science. Minimoons are reportedly tiny and have very little gravity, so it doesn’t take a lot of propulsion to get them going. “It only takes a puff of fuel to leave the Mini-Moon and head back towards Earth,” Binzel reportedly continued.

Could we hop on over to a minimoon and float around for a bit before popping back down to Earth? Maybe! Our closest minimoon is roughly 100 days away, round-trip, according to previous research. “Going to Mars is a big, big step,” NASA scientist Paul Abell told the outlet. “There’s a lot of things that have to happen, so why don’t we look at some of these near-Earth asteroids that are in between the Earth-moon system and Mars.” (RELATED: NASA Claims Its Identified A Strange Object That Defies The Laws Of Physics)

By testing out voyages to minimoons before we pop on over to Mars, scientists believe we can work out some of the major kinks with serious interplanetary travel without the expense of making mistakes when we eventually get to Mars. And we can use these moons once we’re done exploring them, mainly as refueling stations, according to Live Science.

“When you go on vacation, when you fly or drive anywhere, you’re not taking all your oxygen, all your food, everything with you for the entire round trip,” Abell reportedly added. “Well, it’s the same type of thing. We want to get away from having to take everything with us from Earth, all the way out and then come back, because that’s super expensive.” Let’s hope this happens before one of these minimoons decides to destroy our species instead or the aliens come and use Earth as their gas station, eh?