Cruithne (3753 Cruithne) is in a near Earth orbit. Technically, a horseshoe orbit, because it orbits the sun so close to Earth's orbit that it almost, but never, passes us. When visible, which is rare, it appears to move in a horseshoe pattern.


Horseshoe orbit of Cruithne from the perspective of Earth.gif Source

It also crosses the orbits of Mars and Venus and even Mercury.

Why, if it is so close and so large (over a mile and a half) haven't we tried to probe this small world?

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    $\begingroup$ This asteroid would be hard target. Why? The key concepts are "delta V", "rocket equation" and "vis viva equation". If we calculate delta V we'll see the mission requires very large velocity change, much larger than for example to fly to Bennu asteroid. Also crossing orbit of Mercury means harsh thermal conditions, so more sofisticated and expensive spacecraft is needed. $\endgroup$
    – Heopps
    Commented Feb 18, 2020 at 13:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Heopps that looks sufficient to be posted as an answer $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 18, 2020 at 13:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Carl Witthoft - maybe, but currently it's just words without proof ) And the proof (links, formulas) require much more time that I haven't now, unfortuntely. I'm sure somebody can write better answer. $\endgroup$
    – Heopps
    Commented Feb 18, 2020 at 13:53

1 Answer 1


3753 Cruinthe ranks as target number 16832 in JPL's list of near earth asteroids that might be worth visiting, someday. With 16381 better targets, that "someday" most likely will be a long time from now, if ever.

The problems with getting to Cruinthe are twofold. One issue is that its orbit is rather eccentric (0.51485). Changing an orbit's shape is an expensive operation in terms of delta V. The other issue is that its orbit is quite inclined with respect to the Earth's orbit about the Sun, by about 19.8°. Plane changes are also extremely expensive in terms of delta V. The combination of the two issues would make a Cruinthe rendezvous cost more than twice as much (in terms of delta V) as would a Moon landing or a Mars rendezvous.

It would be cheaper to send a lander to Ceres than it would be to rendezvous with Cruinthe.

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    $\begingroup$ A flyby's not hard, you can reach Cruinthe with about 3.5 km/s...your encounter velocity just ends up being 20+ km/s. Look at ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/?mdesign_server&sstr=3753%20Cruithne, there's a plotting tool that makes it clear why it's such a hard orbit to reach from Earth. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 18, 2020 at 23:08
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    $\begingroup$ @ChristopherJamesHuff - Thanks. I changed flyby to rendezvous. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 18, 2020 at 23:11
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    $\begingroup$ How do JPL rank the list of targets worth visiting? Just delta V, or do other factors play a role? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 19, 2020 at 18:33
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    $\begingroup$ @BenjaminPopper, the JPL list is straight delta-V. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Commented Feb 19, 2020 at 21:48
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    $\begingroup$ Funny enough, #1 on that list (as of the time of this comment) might be the Apollo 11 lunar lander. $\endgroup$
    – Jacob Ford
    Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 17:49

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