What that second part means is that they can use Earth’s atmosphere as resistance to slow the speed of an incoming chunk of rock and then bring them into orbit where they can be studied and mined. The trick will be finding asteroids the right size.
Smaller chunks hit into Earth every day but are burned up by the power of our atmosphere. But if the rock is too big…well, put it this way: someone will be on the phone to Bruce Willis pronto. However, the astronomers say the whole process will involve an unmanned spacecraft meeting up with the asteroid long before it gets near to Earth. The craft would be able to apply just enough force to shift the vector of the incoming rock.
It would be a bit like a tugboat guiding a larger craft into port. The researchers have got a specific asteroid in mind for this project: 2005 VL1. They claim it has the right size and speed for the proposed mission – but we’re not sure NASA or SpaceX will be taking on this task any time soon. Bruce Willis was unavailable for comment.