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NASA Space Science Technology

How To Deflect an Asteroid With Today's Technology 264

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-use-the-phasers dept.
Matt_dk writes "Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart is among an international group of people championing the need for the human race to prepare for what will certainly happen one day: an asteroid threat to Earth. Schweickart said the technology is available today to send a mission to an asteroid in an attempt to move it, or change its orbit so that an asteroid that threatens to hit Earth will pass by harmlessly. But what would such a mission entail?"
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How To Deflect an Asteroid With Today's Technology

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  • by T Murphy (1054674) on Friday October 15, 2010 @01:11PM (#33909906) Journal
    Speaking of the apocalypse: Of course doomsday predictions are always for a future date. It would be much more interesting if someone figured out a doomsday prediction for a date 3 years past. That would mean someone has to make a time machine to go back and warn them that the world is about to end. Knowing the world didn't end we could be certain that we will succeed in the time-travel mission.

    This of course means that when the world does end it isn't our fault- it's the fault of the people from the future failing to post-predict the apocalypse and make a time machine to stop it.
  • Re:tough choice (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ephemeriis (315124) on Friday October 15, 2010 @01:16PM (#33909986)

    What if we only have the ability to divert it a little bit, if and when that comes? Then we only control WHERE it hits, not WHETHER it hits. So how do we choose, I wonder?

    If the asteroid is big enough, it won't really matter where it hits. Anywhere on the planet will be a global disaster.

  • Re:tough choice (Score:3, Informative)

    by smooth wombat (796938) on Friday October 15, 2010 @01:33PM (#33910220) Homepage Journal
    At least get the quote right:

    Those Asteroids that hit this morning---those were nothing---the size of basketballs and Volkswagens. This new one we're tracking is the size of Texas, Mr. President. It's what we call a Global Killer....the end of mankind. Half the world will be incinerated by the heat blast.....the rest will freeze to death in a nuclear winter. Basically, the worst part of the Bible !

  • Gorath - 1962 (Score:3, Informative)

    by AmigaHeretic (991368) on Friday October 15, 2010 @01:37PM (#33910276) Journal
    I thought this was already solved?
    You don't move the asteroid... you move the Earth! With lots of giant hydrogen powered rocket tubes at the South Pole!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mf2lvRStVdg [youtube.com]
  • by jmichaelg (148257) on Friday October 15, 2010 @01:57PM (#33910514) Journal

    Depends on what you call small.

    There's a mailing list, Minor Planet Mailing List [yahoo.com], where amateur and professional asteroid hunters congregate and their equipment covers the gamut from 8" up meters wide scopes.

    Regardless of scope size, they are all limited by the fact that it's hard to look towards the sun to spot asteroids whose orbits are primarily sunward of us. A well shaded scope parked at a Lagrange point could go a long ways towards addressing that threat.

  • by TheTrueScotsman (1191887) on Friday October 15, 2010 @02:08PM (#33910640)
    kinetic energy = 0.5 * mass * (velocity ^ 2). At the differential velocity of an asteroid, you'll need one heck of a lot of mass in your shield. Far better to move it small amounts over a long time period (i.e. early detection).
  • ETA: 2 days (Score:4, Informative)

    by gmuslera (3436) on Friday October 15, 2010 @02:16PM (#33910730) Homepage Journal
    The last 2 discovered asteroids that passed "close" (at least, closer than the moon, the last one was few days ago at 45k km) were found with very few days in advance. They weren't very big, but still could had done some big damage, and the early warning wasnt enough to even think on launching a ship, much less doing anything effective with it.

    Early detection must be improved... that some of the asteroids that we know could take 15 years to get here and so give us enough time to prepare don't mean that some unknown or even known ones (if you want, because somehow changed its orbit) could be in its way here and detected when is already too late.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2010 @06:44PM (#33913848)

    NASA's Deep Impact mission worked, and you'd be pretty hard pressed to say that the impactor portion isn't a dummy slug representing what would be potentially be a nuclear warhead. The dimensions and masses are thisclose when comparing its data to publicly known data representing nukes and their guidance packages available from the U.S. stockpile.

    In other words, the Delta II or comparable rocket should be capable of getting the job done.

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