An effective way to deflect an Earth-threatening asteroid

April 17th, 2009 - 1:06 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, April 17 (ANI): A scientist in the US has found an effective way to deflect an Earth-threatening asteroid, by attaching a long tether and ballast to the incoming object.

The theory has been put forward by David French, a doctoral candidate in aerospace engineering at North Carolina (NC) State University, US.

According to French, by attaching the ballast, “you change the object’s center of mass, effectively changing the object’s orbit and allowing it to pass by the Earth, rather than impacting it.”

NASA’s Near Earth Object Program has identified more than 1,000 “potentially hazardous asteroids” and they are finding more all the time.

“While none of these objects is currently projected to hit Earth in the near future, slight changes in the orbits of these bodies, which could be caused by the gravitational pull of other objects, push from the solar wind, or some other effect could cause an intersection,” French explained.

So French, and NC State Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Andre Mazzoleni, studied whether an asteroid-tether-ballast system could effectively alter the motion of an asteroid to ensure it missed hitting Earth.

“The Earth has been hit by objects from space many times before, so we know how bad the effects could be,” said French.

“Using a tether somewhere between 1,000 kilometers to 100,000 kilometers to divert an asteroid sounds extreme,” he said.

But, French said that when you compare this theory to other schemes, it seems a far sensible approach.

That’s because other schemes include: a call for painting the asteroids in order to alter how light may influence their orbit; a plan that would guide a second asteroid into the threatening one; and using nuclear weapons to blow up the asteroid. (ANI)

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