Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
NASA Space Science

British Company Takes Lead To Stop Asteroids 198

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the prepare-to-take-the-money-and-run dept.
An anonymous reader writes to tell us that following the news of NASA's budget cuts impacting their ability to do things like watch the sky for asteroids, a British company has decided to create a "gravity tractor" ship that could divert asteroids away from Earth if the need should arise. Of course, a gravity tractor certainly isn't a new idea. "Dr. Cordey said the company had worked with a number of space authorities on other methods of protecting the Earth from asteroids, but this one would be able to target a wider range. He said: 'We have done quite a lot of design work on this with the European Space Agency and we believe this would work just as well on a big solid iron asteroid as well as other types.' But the high cost implications mean that before the device could be made, it would have to be commissioned by a government or a group of governments working together."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

British Company Takes Lead To Stop Asteroids

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 31, 2009 @07:25PM (#29267971)

    But the high cost implications mean that before the device could be made, it would have to be commissioned by a government or a group of governments working together.

    Oh, never mind then.

    • by dapyx (665882) on Monday August 31, 2009 @08:10PM (#29268329) Homepage
      I'm very curious to learn which is their business plan. Could it be "pay us a gazillion dollars or we won't use our technology against the asteroid"?
      • by gijoel (628142) on Monday August 31, 2009 @09:01PM (#29268707)
        Nice planet you've got here.....

        Be a shame if something happened to it.
      • by SETIGuy (33768) on Monday August 31, 2009 @09:13PM (#29268827) Homepage

        I'm very curious to learn which is their business plan. Could it be "pay us a gazillion dollars or we won't use our technology against the asteroid"?

        Any technology that can be used to divert an asteroid away from the Earth can also be used to direct one toward the Earth. I would guess they could get venture capital for a business plan like "pay us a gazillion dollars or we will use our technology to alter the course of this asteroid."

        Lots of other businesses have "destroy the Earth" in their business plan. Why should commercial space ventures be any different?

        • by Jeng (926980)

          Perhaps it could also be used for catching asteroids and parking them in orbit for automated mining.

          • by TheLink (130905)
            No point. Plenty of asteroids are already in a parking orbit.

            It would be way too expensive to force an asteroid that's hurtling towards the earth to slow down and go into orbit instead of whizzing past.
          • by shentino (1139071)

            Throw killer robots into the mix and you've got a plan...

        • Any technology that can be used to divert an asteroid away from the Earth can also be used to direct one toward the Earth.

          Given that Earth is teeny weeny and space is like totally big, it would seem it requires better (by several orders of magnitude) targeting to hit Earth than to hit not-Earth.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        I would call their bluff.

        If they don't use it, they won't be around either after the asteroid hits.

        • by stfvon007 (632997)

          maybe its "This asteroid that wont destroy the earth but will destroy a sizable chunk of land is headed for earth. Whatever country that pays us the least amount of money (in %age of GDP) is going to get it. this will be a blind auction, cash only, upfront. (if multiple countries bit the same amount we will redirect more asteroids) Muhahahahahaha!

          • maybe its "This asteroid that wont destroy the earth but will destroy a sizable chunk of land is headed for earth. Whatever country that pays us the least amount of money (in %age of GDP) is going to get it. this will be a blind auction, cash only, upfront. (if multiple countries bit the same amount we will redirect more asteroids) Muhahahahahaha!

            Cash, huh?

            Isn't that sort of a problem? I mean, the government which gives you that cash is also the government whose existence gives that cash value. After you've taken payment, they could go into inflation overdrive, severely devaluing the currency they've given you (with hefty tax cuts and spending programs for their own population to ease the blow)...

            It seems to me that if you're extorting money from major governments, you've got to take payment in forms that have more inherent value. Gold could be a

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        I think it's more like "give us millions of pounds to develop this thing we came up with on the back of a napkin kthxbai".

        They don't have a prototype. No proven or even experimentally tested hardware. They just have a vague idea and a press release.

      • by selven (1556643)
        "We will push it out of orbit or, if you pay us well, we'll just redirect it by a few thousand kilometers to the country of your choice..."
    • I've wondered about this kind of an issue, it seems to be some kind of dilemma because the people funding it to save the earth would even helping those that aren't willing to help pay for it because those people assume that someone else will pay for it. If everyone assumes someone else will pay for it and as such, don't bother to pitch in, will the problem actually be solved? Assuming this is a problem that human civilization has to solve, this could be one of the biggest, most convoluted games of chicken

  • Smart Bomb or Hyperspace?

  • by AltGrendel (175092) <ag-slashdot@ex[ ].us ['it0' in gap]> on Monday August 31, 2009 @07:29PM (#29268019) Homepage
    We need to take care of the Yellowstone Caldera [wikipedia.org] first. I think that's more likely to erupt before an asteroid hits.
    • Not necessarily (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday August 31, 2009 @07:55PM (#29268217)

      99942 Apophis will make a near pass to Earth in 2029. However, if it passes within a narrow window, called the keyhole, the Earth's (and Moon's) gravity will deflect it such as to place it on a direct Earth impact in 2036. Now this isn't all that likely to happen, but it is possible. Worth having some contingency plans for at least.

    • by Opyros (1153335) on Monday August 31, 2009 @08:38PM (#29268529) Journal
      Sure, but at least we have some idea what to do about an asteroid impact. How would we prepare for a supervolcano? The only way to survive is by being somewhere else when it erupts.
    • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

      Can't we do both at once?

      My backgrounds in space mission design, not geology.. pretty sure the cost to benefit ratio is going to show I'm better off working on asteroid deflection while the geologist down the street gets to work looking at mitigating supervolcanoes. And of course the automotive engineers over there on the other side of town are probably best off developing newer, more efficient cars, and my friends in aerodynamics should working on more efficient aircraft and better wind turbines.

      Lots of p

      • by Gilmoure (18428)

        Hmmm... I'm good at looking at porn, wasting time on slashdot and clicking pretty icons on my Mac. I wonder what problem I can solve to make the world a better place?

        And if it involves beer, brats and Dr. Who marathons, even better!

        World, I'm ready to save ya!

    • by trawg (308495)

      Can't everyone just, like, move away from that place?

      I don't know if I'm reading wiki wrong but that doesn't look like an end-of-all-life-on-earth sort of event, like an asteroid slamming into it would be :)

      (Disclaimer: I just finished re-reading Lucifer's Hammer by Niven and Pournelle. Well worth a read!!)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 31, 2009 @07:36PM (#29268077)
    Competition, not coordination, in attempting to stop asteroids from ending all life on Earth. What could go wrong...

    Meanwhile, in an East Texas courtroom...
    Dr. Cordey: Your honor, I'd like to file an injunction to prevent NASA from using their gravity tractor to stop the asteroid that will impact Earth next week.
    NASA: This patent is ridiculous. They don't have their own working gravity tractor. They aren't even trying to build one. All of their ideas in their patent come from working with NASA and the ESA.
    Dr. Cordey: We don't have our own gravity tractor, but we are working with the ESA to build one. It should be done in a year or two.
    NASA: Everyone on the planet will be killed next week. We have to be permitted to stop the asteroid.
    Judge: I'm going to allow the injunction. You can appeal it within 60 days if you like. Without patents protection, all we have is chaos. We can't make an exception here just because it suits us.
    1 week later: BOOOOOOOOM.
    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Under those sorts of conditions, I'm fairly certain NASA could (with the support of the president) say "The judge has made its decision, now let them enforce it!" and used the gravity tractor anyways.

  • The time required to make this work seems too long to be practical. I would think we'd have a year at most to find an asteroid on a collision course. Furthermore, I think we should concentrate our efforts on finding the rocks that are a threat.

    I've always thought it would be best to use some kind of propulsion system to help move the asteroid in it's same direction causing it to overshoot us. Trying to change it's current vector or trajectory seems like it would be wasting energy.

  • Seems like they could make some kind of game, and have people play that game to control the missiles that shoot down asteroids threatening cities.

    (Ok, so that is a combination of Ender's Game and Missile Command)

  • British Company Takes Lead To Stop Asteroids

    Thank God! That was such a stupid idea to base a movie on that game [slashdot.org].

  • by iron spartan (1192553) on Monday August 31, 2009 @07:57PM (#29268229)

    All this relies on finding said asteroid years if not decades out.

    I can't confirm, but I remember hearing that between NASA and all the other space agencies we track less than 20% of space inside of Jupiter's orbit. A large dark asteroid out of the Kuiper Belt could be closing on us right now and we wouldn't see it until months before impact, too late to do anything about it.

    IMHO, lets work on finding and tracking large asteroids first.

  • CCTV (Score:5, Funny)

    by ickleberry (864871) <web@pineapple.vg> on Monday August 31, 2009 @07:57PM (#29268231) Homepage
    Does this plan involve taking all of Britain's CCTV cameras and pointing them towards the sky?
  • How are they going to know that they need to deploy their "gravity tractor", if NASA's program to inform them is shut down? And are they going to hire Bruce Willis to drive it?
  • by pjt48108 (321212) <[moc.oohay] [ta] [80184tjp]> on Monday August 31, 2009 @08:55PM (#29268653) Homepage

    Here's an idea...

    How many tons of launch debris do we dodge daily in orbit?

    Why not collect it, and use its condensed and combined mass for such a "gravity tractor?"

    Just asking...

  • I'm glad to see that someone is taking real threats and problems for *all of us* more seriously than petty disagreements about improvable beings/entities and hoarding shit daily.

    Thanks for being the first to be serious about it.

  • by DynaSoar (714234) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @12:29AM (#29270067) Journal

    The summary seems to imply a "British Company To Pick Up NASA's Dropped Asteroid Ball" slant. "Seems" is used here because rhetorical device is relied on because the facts themselves don't do the job.

    One failure is the false dichotomy created by positioning the Near Earth Object program(s -- there's seven http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/programs/ [nasa.gov] ) for detecting and tracking thousands of rocks against a vehicle intended to take one such rock and push it around. A tactic like this is common when the writer has little faith in the intended focus of the piece to carry the story alone, and they present a badly constructed straw man in contrast.

    The second problem is in presenting NASA's possible future NEO (a currently operating and planned continued project, mind you) budget crunch as problematic, whereas this British company's announcement of what amounts to grand plans on paper that would admittedly require huge national or international funding to even begin is held up as "taking the lead".

    If announcing one has plans that one considers viable is "taking the lead", the team in TFA is taking the lead behind dozens of other "programs" in equal or farther planning stages, some described in a recent Discovery/Science Channel program, many written up in popular media over the years and available to the search engine of your choice, with the Top Ten Ways listed at http://dsc.discovery.com/space/top-10/asteroid-stopping-technology/index-03.html [discovery.com] . Harry Stamper's roughnecks and Spurgeon Tanner's shuttle crew are not among them, which didn't stop me from using them in the obligatory /. inclusion of SF references.

  • I suppose it's useful because it's fairly dense but quite soft. Are they taking it off church roofs?

Last yeer I kudn't spel Engineer. Now I are won.

Working...