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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 Covalent (1001277) on Friday October 15, 2010 @12:02PM (#33909766)
    Obviously it depends on detection time. If we detect the asteroid years ahead of time, then even tiny changes in course will save us from impact. This could be done by simply crashing a small probe into it...something we've done successfully on more than one occasion. But, if we don't detect it until it's nearly on top of us then it may well be beyond our ability to do it. Therefore, the obvious solution is to increase detection technology.
  • The cost... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dancindan84 (1056246) on Friday October 15, 2010 @12:11PM (#33909904)
    None of them want to pay taxes again. Ever.
  • by Covalent (1001277) on Friday October 15, 2010 @12:15PM (#33909972)
    I couldn't agree more. A big asteroid impact would also likely be out of our hands in terms of prevention...but a small impact could still devastate a city, and we could actually deflect it. This has "distributed computing project" written all over it.
  • by denis-The-menace (471988) on Friday October 15, 2010 @12:17PM (#33910006)

    It needs to be off-planet to see better.
    Place it on the moon, in one of the 2 LaGrange points, in orbit, or where ever it makes $en$e.

    Because right now we have next to nothing and this currently popular "manage by crisis" management style will do nothing to help.

  • by MadTwit (1918654) on Friday October 15, 2010 @12:21PM (#33910064)
    ...we wouldn't.There is no possible threat to the Earth which humans could ever make even the smallest abount of diffence about. Instead there is a threat to civilisation. Pedantic, I know but the only threat to the earth is crashing into a star or another planet. Humanity compared is much more fragile, threatened by a mere mile wide rock or similar.
  • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Friday October 15, 2010 @12:22PM (#33910072)

    Using nukes would allow a smaller projectile, but would very likely cause radioactive debris to renter earth's atmosphere. Not good. Its better to land on it and push it into the sun's gravity well.

    I thought the idea for nukes was to set the off well away from the surface so that one side of the asteroid ablates off producing a net thrust. This is preferred because it doesn't waste energy breaking a large rock into smaller pieces, doesn't create debris, and can also be effective on 'rubble pile' type asteroids.

    And of course, the biggest advantage for a nuke is that it's the densest form of energy storage that we have, you can send a nuclear warhead up for way less delta-V than an equivalent amount of rocket fuel, even if the nuke is only 40% efficient in terms of energy to thrust. But then I suppose you could have an Ion type engine that uses little propellent and gathers energy from solar panels or even a nuclear reactor. Find a way to use the asteroid itself as the propellent (mass driver), use energy from the sun, and the necessary automation to gather and process the rock and you'd have a very light weight solution (with the added advantage of setting up the first, prototypical asteroid mining facility).

  • by kurokame (1764228) on Friday October 15, 2010 @12:50PM (#33910416)

    You find out its orbital and mechanical properties as early as possible.

    Then you send a gravity tug to change the orbit.

  • by 0123456 (636235) on Friday October 15, 2010 @12:55PM (#33910472)

    Cost of preventing impact >>> (cost of impact * probabilitiy of impact)

    About once a century we get an impact that's equivalent to a few megatons, and there's a 75% chance of it hitting an ocean and about a 99% chance of not hitting a heavily populated area. Sucks if your farm happens to be ground zero, but there's no sane reason to spend billions of dollars a year trying to prevent it.

  • Re:The cost... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Notquitecajun (1073646) on Friday October 15, 2010 @12:56PM (#33910492)
    Well, IF we had to land some guys on an asteroid to deal with it, would you want practical blue-collar types who aren't afraid to work with their hands and have the muscle to get stuff done, or techno-weenies pushing buttons and not able to deal with something on the outside if it breaks?

    Not that it's quite that dichotomy, but those "teabaggers" you ridicule aren't as stupid as you think that their politics are.
  • Re:Spoiler alert (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mongoose Disciple (722373) on Friday October 15, 2010 @01:05PM (#33910612)

    If you miss being non-monogamous so much, you should've stayed that way...

    I miss the young more than the non-monogamous, and I didn't get a choice on that.

    It's true that I do miss parts of being single at times or are nostalgic for its bright spots, but it's also true that I do overall prefer the life I've chosen to replace it with. My wife is amazing. Family life with anyone else I'd met or dated never seemed like a good idea, but this is right for me.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2010 @04:08PM (#33912926)
    If you have that much going on, spend the money on several bottles of JD and drink them all.

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