Free Newsletters - Space News - Defense Alert - Environment Report - Energy Monitor
. 24/7 Space News .




DEEP IMPACT
Paintballs to deflect killer-asteroids
by Yulia Zamanskaya
Moscow (Voice of Russia) Mar 07, 2013


It is still unclear how some asteroids might respond to a nuclear detonation, and what would happen if the explosion failed to deflect the object completely. Then of course, the use of nuclear devices in space could be a particularly sensitive topic both legally and politically because of current multilateral agreements prohibiting nuclear weapons testing in space.

In the wake of last month's meteorite explosion in Russia's Chelyabinsk, it has become increasingly clear that, if humanity is not to follow the dinosaurs into oblivion, it has to find a way to deflect killer-asteroids from hitting the Earth. As international space agencies continue their quest to find for the most effective threat-reduction methods, the Voice of Russia reviews the more unusual asteroid deflection techniques currently proposed by modern science.

Traditional thought suggests there are three possible means by which a threat from an Asteroid is most likely to be diverted: gravity tractors, kinetic impactors, and the nuclear blast-deflection method. The gravity tractor technique involves sending a probe to the asteroid without actually touching it. The probe would then remain alongside the celestial body and using its additional, albeit small, gravitational field, gradually drag the asteroid off course.

This technique offers the possibility of a very precise change in the asteroid's trajectory. Indeed, NASA's Dawn spacecraft is currently using exactly this method to pull the huge space-rock, Vesta, off course. The one downside to this method though is that it would take months, or even years, for a meaningful change in the asteroid's course.

This raises two problems: firstly, if the potentially fatal asteroid is detected too late, humanity might not have the luxury of time to use such a 'slow' prevention method. Secondly; to reliably and continuously operate alongside a giant space rock for several years the 'tractor' would need an incredibly powerful propulsion system, potentially ion thrusters, that has yet to be developed.

The kinetic impactor technique may address those difficulties by relying on brute force rather than a gentle gravitational tug. This method involves simply 'ramming' the threatening space object with a robotic probe to adjust its course away from Earth. While the impactor technique would not be as precise as the gravity tractor approach, it would still 'do the job'.

The European Space Agency (ESA) developed a mission concept of this type as early as 2005. Named the 'Don Quixote', the ESA proposed to deflect the infamous Apophis asteroid with two separate probes: one would slam into the asteroid at more than 48 000 kilometres per hour, while the other would remain in orbit to assess the kinetic impact's effect.

An even more aggressive deflection method would be to detonate a nuclear weapon on or near the surface of the offending asteroid. This technique could be particularly useful if the time between detection and projected impact were too short for the other methods to be relied upon. Despite being probably the simplest, and most popular, solution to the problem of deadly asteroids approaching Earth, the nuclear detonation method also has its problems.

It is still unclear how some asteroids might respond to a nuclear detonation, and what would happen if the explosion failed to deflect the object completely. Then of course, the use of nuclear devices in space could be a particularly sensitive topic both legally and politically because of current multilateral agreements prohibiting nuclear weapons testing in space.

Having reviewed these traditional asteroid deflection techniques, Sung Wook Paek, a graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, suggests an unusual alternative: Mr Paek proposes using paintballs to pull an asteroid off course.

The argument behind Mr Paek's idea is reasonably simple; after measuring the velocity and rotation of an incoming asteroid, two unmanned spacecraft would approach the celestial body close enough to be able to shoot large clouds of white paintballs at it! Two probes would be needed because, as the asteroid rotates, a shot from only one spacecraft would not cover the entire asteroid with white paint and so the first probe strikes one side of the asteroid, the second probe covers the other.

The white paint would reflect light and other electromagnetic radiation from the asteroid's surface, and, over time, the cumulative effect of billions of photons would result in the asteroid changing course. The white paint would effectively act as a 'solar sail', increasing the balance of solar radiation absorbed and emitted by the asteroid, gently easing it away from its original destination.

Another deflection technique, also based on light reflectivity or laser sublimation was proposed by a team of American researchers who suggested launching a swarm of 'mirror bees' towards the potential killer.

Tiny probes, equipped with mirrors, would position themselves in such a way as to reflect a concentration of sunlight on one specific point of the asteroid. This 'beam of light' would then generate enough heat for it to start to vaporise, creating propulsive gas jets. In essence, vapour emitted from the asteroid would push it off-course. Alternatively, the asteroid might 'simply' be wrapped in reflective 'foil'.

These of course are just a select few of the many deflection methods and strategies that are currently being developed and investigated by scientists from all over the world. It is vital that such research continues so that, if the worst should come, humanity will be equipped with a viable 'toolbox' of deflection techniques and live to tell the tale of the potentially deadly asteroid, that didn't, quite, hit Earth!

Source: Voice of Russia

.


Related Links
Roscosmos
Asteroid and Comet Impact Danger To Earth - News and Science






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





DEEP IMPACT
Ancient meteorite impact in Iowa studied
Decorah, Iowa (UPI) Mar 5, 2013
Airborne surveys are providing an unprecedented look at a 470-million-year-old meteorite crater in Iowa concealed by bedrock and sediment, geologists say. The aerial surveys were conducted around Decorah, Iowa, within the past 60 days to map geologic structures and assess the mineral and water resources of the region, the U.S. Geological Survey said in a release Tuesday. "Capturi ... read more


DEEP IMPACT
China to use modified rocket for moon landing mission

Water On The Moon: It's Been There All Along

Building a lunar base with 3D printing

US, Europe team up for moon fly-by

DEEP IMPACT
Mars rover 'sleeping' through solar storm

Curiosity Rover's Recovery on Track

NASA's Curiosity rover to be back online next week

Short Bump Gets Robotic Arm Closer to Rock Target

DEEP IMPACT
Shadows over data sharing

NASA Launches Website to Design Interplanetary Missions

Sequestration and the Civil Space Industry

Gadgets and gizmos galore at world's top IT fair

DEEP IMPACT
China's fourth space launch center to be in use in two years

China to launch new manned spacecraft

Woman expected again to join next China crew roster

China's space station will be energy-efficient

DEEP IMPACT
'Goody Bag' Filled With Sample Processing Supplies Arrives on Station

ESA's Columbus Biolab Facility

SpaceX set for third mission to space station

Record Number of Students Control ISS Camera

DEEP IMPACT
Vega launcher integration continues for its April mission

SpaceX's capsule arrives at ISS

Dragon Transporting Two ISS Experiments For AMES

SpaceX Optimistic Despite Dragon Capsule Mishap

DEEP IMPACT
The Birth of a Giant Planet?

Scientists spot birth of giant planet

NASA's Kepler Mission Discovers Tiny Planet System

Kepler helps astronomers find tiny exo planet

DEEP IMPACT
Atoms with Quantum-Memory

Big data: Searching in large amounts of data quickly and efficiently

Neutron scattering provides data on adsorption of ions in microporous materials

MEXSAT Bicentenario Satellite Completes On-orbit Testing




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement