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NASA's Bizarre Plan to Drag an Asteroid into Orbit

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By Chris Gayomali

Of all the asteroids relatively close to Earth, a space rock called 1999 AO10 is the most attractive candidate for close-up inspection. But getting to it would be both ridiculously expensive and incredibly dangerous. Sending astronauts there and back would take roughly half a year, and potential rescue missions would be impossible. Astronauts would also be exposing their bodies to untold amounts of radiation once they're outside the Earth's magnetic field.

But there could be another way to study asteroids up close. NASA is reportedly considering a new mission proposed by the Keck Institute for Space Studies that would send a robotic spacecraft to grab a small asteroid, tow it back towards Earth, and then park it in the moon's orbit for us to study as we please. 

New Scientist reports:

The Keck team envisions launching a slow-moving spacecraft, propelled by solar-heated ions, on an Atlas V rocket. The craft would then propel itself out to a target asteroid, probably a small space rock about 7 metres wide. After studying it briefly, the robot would catch the asteroid in a bag measuring about 10 metres by 15 metres and head back towards the moon. Altogether it would take about six to 10 years to deliver the asteroid to lunar orbit.

Asteroids are a keen area of interest for researchers because they contain potentially harvestable valuables like platinum, and perhaps even oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen to fuel our rockets — which would effectively turn asteroids into gas stations for long-distance space travel. In total, the proposed plan would cost $2.6 billion, or just a shade more expensive than the Mars rover team's Curiosity mission.

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Sylke Rohrlach, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0
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Animals
These Strange Sea Spiders Breathe Through Their Legs
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Sylke Rohrlach, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

We know that humans breathe through their lungs and fish breathe through their gills—but where exactly does that leave sea spiders?

Though they might appear to share much in common with land spiders, sea spiders are not actually arachnids. And, by extension, they don't circulate blood and oxygen the way you'd expect them to, either.

A new study from Current Biology found that these leggy sea dwellers (marine arthropods of the class Pycnogonida) use their external skeleton to take in oxygen. Or, more specifically: They use their legs. The sea spider contracts its legs—which contain its guts—to pump oxygen through its body.

Somehow, these sea spiders hardly take the cake for Strangest Spider Alive (especially because they're not actually spiders); check out, for instance, our round-up of the 10 strangest spiders, and watch the video from National Geographic below:

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Food
How to Make Perfect Fried Chicken, According to Chemistry
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iStock

Cooking amazing fried chicken isn’t just art—it’s also chemistry. Learn the science behind the sizzle by watching the American Chemical Society’s latest "Reactions" video below.

Host Kyle Nackers explains the three important chemical processes that occur as your bird browns in the skillet—hydrolysis, oxidation, and polymerization—and he also provides expert-backed cooking hacks to help you whip up the perfect picnic snack.

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