Made in Space has laid out a Steampunk-esque plan to create what amounts to an analog computer built of gears, rods, pulleys and flywheels to get an asteroid back home. Electronics and combustion systems are too complex to manufacture on-site, so any devices built on the asteroid would have to be 3D printed with native resources, and mechanical in nature.
A giant catapult that flings portions of the asteroid backwards would serve as the propulsion system. In concordance with Newton’s Third Law, chucking material off the asteroid would propel the spacecraft in the opposite direction toward Earth. Similar systems would be used to steer the asteroid. If all goes well, the asteroid would make its way back to Earth under its own power, where it could be easily mined for resources.
However, the plan is still in its early stages and has a long road ahead, as Space.com’s Mike Wall writes.
This article originally appeared at Discover Magazine