Protecting Earth from large asteroids is an ongoing concern for those who spend their time thinking on space. NASA is always looking for solutions to the potential problem of asteroids coming straight at us. And, hitting an asteroid with its own kind could be an answer. Yes, for real.
It might seem crazy to suggest that we can just try to make a bank shot with one asteroid and knock another asteroid off course. But, researchers are proposing that it’s possible that they could, in the future, start “steering small, benign near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) into big and hazardous ones, in a dramatic, high-stakes game of cosmic billiards.”, according to space.com. We’re not there yet, but the proposal is so entirely fascinating!
David Dunham, chief mission design engineer at the Arizona-based KinetX Aerospace, presented the proposal with NASA’s Future In-Space Operations (FISO) working group last month. The idea is that NASA could launch a “kinetic impactor” probe to attach itself to one of the many NEA’s zooming past Earth on a regular basis. They’d focus on NEA’s that are around 33 feet (10 meters) wide. The spacecraft would “ride” this small asteroid and use a gravity-assist from Earth, speeding it up and altering its path to collide with a bigger asteroid. The collision would then move the bigger asteroid onto a more benign path, bypassing Earth and saving the human race!
And, that’s not all! Dunham also suggested that we could preemptively send kinetic impactors to attach themselves to several NEA’s and remain inactive, lying in wait, until they needed to be activated. Around a dozen asteroids could be armed and ready, “So, you’d have a whole bunch of these things ready to throw at any asteroid coming towards you,” he said.
Asteroid arsenal! Take that, space objects! We love that this idea exists, and is viable. What do you think?