One of the challenges about missions to asteroids is staying attached to them when you land.

Many asteroids are described as nickel/iron, and we know that both nickel and iron have magnetic properties.

Is it possible to anchor to a nickel and/or iron asteroid with permanent or electromagnets on landing feet?

If so how close to the asteroid would we need to be to determine if it would be effective? (i.e. just before landing, or from Earth based testing)

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    $\begingroup$ This is a really interesting question! For example, consider a "typical" nickel/iron asteroid' if a 100 kg spacecraft had a 10 kg neodymium permanent magnet segmented (like these) with some degree of flexibility to accommodate surface roughness, at what diameter would the gravitational attraction be larger than the magnetic attraction? For large asteroids gravity always wins, but for the smaller ones, magnetic attraction could be very helpful, e.g. i.stack.imgur.com/Uzvjp.jpg $\endgroup$ – uhoh Sep 19 '19 at 12:50
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh Aslong as the poles are facing the correct way gravity and the magnetic force should both be acting in the same direction so it would just aid in staying on the asteroid. $\endgroup$ – Seth Kurkowski Sep 20 '19 at 20:30
  • $\begingroup$ I think the real issue is finding an asteroid with enough magnetic material on the surface and concentrated in a area so it has a strong enough field to hold. If it's all within the asteroid or spread thin across the surface it wouldn't work. $\endgroup$ – Seth Kurkowski Sep 20 '19 at 20:32
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    $\begingroup$ @SCLASethKurkowski for large asteroids the force would be unnecessary, you don't carry stuff that has no use, if someone tried to sell you magnetic plating and boots for your lawn on Earth you would politely decline. A definitive answer will identify the size of asteroid for which magnetic locking will provide a useful supplement to gravity. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Sep 20 '19 at 22:57
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh oh yeah, that. Haha I don’t know what I was thinking with that comment. My second comment was the more thoughtful one. $\endgroup$ – Seth Kurkowski Sep 22 '19 at 0:48

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