Landing spacecraft on asteroids is a delicate, precise process that takes a lot of planning. Harpooning a fish, on the other hand, is the work of an instant. A new plan put forth by University of Washington professor Robert Winglee aims to marry these two wildly different actions.
The idea is to fire harpoon-like sampling rockets right into the surface of asteroids in order to take mineral samples. More than simple kamikaze missiles, these space harpoons are to be sophisticated sampling devices, tethered to a secondary capsule capable of making the return trip to Earth. Here's how the system works: