Near-Earth Objects: Finding Them before They Find Us

By Donald K. Yeomans | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
Nature's Natural Resources and the
Human Exploration of Our Solar System

All exploration is human exploration.


Why Should We Explore Near-Earth Objects?

The reasons for exploring and studying near-Earth objects go well beyond intellectual curiosity. These objects represent the least changed and hence most primitive objects within our solar system and, as such, they provide critical clues as to the origin of our solar system. If we wish to understand the chemical mix and thermal environment from which our solar system arose 4.6 billion years ago, then the compositions of near-Earth objects, and the meteorites derived from them, will offer insights into the conditions present when the planets formed. Armed with these clues as to the formation conditions and an albeit incomplete understanding of the present conditions within the solar system, scientists can provide reasonable models for the 4.6-billion-year evolutionary path between then and now (see chapter 3).

The study of near-Earth objects plays a key role in understanding the mechanisms that brought the building blocks of life to the early Earth. The Earth formed hot without significant supplies of water and organic materials so once the Earth cooled down, near-Earth objects likely delivered much of these materials to the early Earth (see chapter 4).

In addition to their importance in studying the conditions under which our solar system formed and the mechanism by which the early

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