Further observations will show approximately what 2004MN4 is made of. I have hope that it's a rocky body with quality ores such as nickel/iron... but only a Deep impact style probe would give us truly hard data.
Now, if you look at the orbital plot [nasa.gov], you'll note just how close this rock is right now... and how close it gets twice a year, not just on april 13, 2029.
While the newspapers and the slashdot articles are focused on the potential impact energy, (m*v), I'm far more interested in m. This rock has more mass than mankind has put into space since the beginning of the Space age; far, far more mass than is projected to be in the International Space station. It's bigger than a football stadium! And there it goes by, whizzing overhead, on near miss after near miss, for the next couple centuries.
(note I may have slipped a decimal point here) Assume 2004MN is 1% nickel. Earth value of 8,000,000 tonnes of nickel is: 12,200,000,000 US dollars. (well, until the nickel futures market crashes harder than this asteroid will). Value of any material, if it were in earth orbit, is 10,000/lb and that's too many zeros for me to type here. For just the nickel. Oxygen is even more valuable. Slag is valuable.
If we just had a booster on the pad with enough oomph, we could get a probe there in a matter of weeks [nasa.gov].
IF this asteroid contains valuable materials (be they platinum, iron, nickel, gold, oxygen, or carbon), it would be a bonanza for mankind's space efforts.
Let's find out! Divert Dawn [ucla.edu](launch date 06/06), or Deep Impact [nasa.gov] (launch date 01/12/05).
This asteroid (and many other NEAs like it [nasa.gov]) is not just a threat, but an opportunity [blogspot.com]. It's an opportunity to get a leg up into space.
Can we afford to take a look? Can we afford not to, with the odds of it striking us currently at 1 out of 45?
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Uncle Bill's Helicopter - A speech I gave to ITT Tech - Chicken soup for engineers
Beating the Brand - A pathological exploration of how branding makes it hard to think straight
Inside the Internet Mind - trying to map the weather within the global supercomputer that consists of humans and google
Sex In Politics - If politicians spent more time pounding the flesh rather than pressing it, it would be a better world
Getting resources from space - An alternative to blowing money on mars using NEAs.
On the Columbia - Why I care about space
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Bear Waller Hollar