Spacecraft Could Nuke Dangerous Asteroid to Defend Earth

Mar 9, 2018

By Mike Wall

The next time a hazardous asteroid lines Earth up in its crosshairs, we may be ready for the threat.

Scientists and engineers with the U.S. government have drawn up plans for a spacecraft that could knock big, incoming space rocks off course via blunt-force impact or blow them to bits with a nuclear warhead, BuzzFeed News reported.

The researchers announced the concept vehicle, known as the Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response (HAMMER), in a study in the February issue of the journal Acta Astronautica. And the team will discuss HAMMER at an asteroid-research conference in May, according to BuzzFeed News.

Each HAMMER spacecraft would weigh about 8.8 tons (8 metric tons). If an asteroid threat is detected early enough, a fleet of the vehicles could be dispatched to collide, nuke-free, with the space rock, changing its trajectory enough to spare Earth from an impact.

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4 comments on “Spacecraft Could Nuke Dangerous Asteroid to Defend Earth

  • @OP – Scientists and engineers with the U.S. government have drawn up plans for a spacecraft that could knock big, incoming space rocks off course via blunt-force impact or blow them to bits with a nuclear warhead

    @OP link – The research is part of a broader study by NASA and the National Nuclear Security Agency to better understand humanity’s options when presented with a potentially threatening near-Earth object (NEO).

    Perhaps including the National Nuclear Security Agency, and its thinking, was mistake!

    @OP – Each HAMMER spacecraft would weigh about 8.8 tons (8 metric tons).
    If an asteroid threat is detected early enough,
    a fleet of the vehicles could be dispatched to collide, nuke-free,
    with the space rock, changing its trajectory enough to spare Earth from an impact.

    The multiple impacts technique sounds plausible, but nuclear explosions sound to me, like some ill-thought out macho proposal from someone over-fed on militaristic comic-book science fiction!

    Most of the informed discussions on asteroid impactors, have been focussed on early detection and gentle deflection techniques – with the view that using nuclear explosions, is likely to shatter a deflectable “bullet” turning it into an unmanageable, uncontrollable, shotgun blast, which will lead to multiple smaller but devastating impacts on Earth!

    Many of these asteroids, appear to be fragile collections of loosely aggregated lumps of rock, held together by gravity. Small ones can be seen disintegrating when they impact the atmosphere!

    Smashing an asteroid to bits, does little to alter the trajectory of most of the pieces!

    More subtle methods of sourcing, imparting, and directing, energy to deflect it, are likely to be more effective.

    http://www.planetary.org/explore/projects/laser-bees/

    What Are Laser Bees

    This technique involves many small spacecraft — each carrying a laser — swarming around a near-Earth asteroid.
    The spacecraft could precisely focus their powerful lasers pumped by sunlight onto a tiny spot on the asteroid, vaporizing the rock and metal, and creating a jet plume of super-heated gases and debris.
    The asteroid would become the fuel for its own rocket — and slowly, the asteroid would move into a new trajectory.

  • Meanwhile:- in addition to the need for asteroid detection and mapping to avoid dangerous impacts on Earth, there are moves to map asteroids for geological research and potential mining of metals, and manufacture of metal products in space.

    https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/nasa-moves-up-launch-of-psyche-mission-to-a-metal-asteroid

    NASA Moves Up Launch of Psyche Mission to a Metal Asteroid

    Psyche, NASA’s Discovery Mission to a unique metal asteroid, has been moved up one year with launch in the summer of 2022, and with a planned arrival at the main belt asteroid in 2026 — four years earlier than the original timeline.

    “We challenged the mission design team to explore if an earlier launch date could provide a more efficient trajectory to the asteroid Psyche, and they came through in a big way,” said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This will enable us to fulfill our science objectives sooner and at a reduced cost.”

    The Discovery program announcement of opportunity had directed teams to propose missions for launch in either 2021 or 2023. The Lucy mission was selected for the first launch opportunity in 2021, and Psyche was to follow in 2023. Shortly after selection in January, NASA gave the direction to the Psyche team to research earlier opportunities.

    “The biggest advantage is the excellent trajectory, which gets us there about twice as fast and is more cost effective,” said Principal Investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University in Tempe. “We are all extremely excited that NASA was able to accommodate this earlier launch date. The world will see this amazing metal world so much sooner.”

  • @OP – or blow them to bits with a nuclear warhead, BuzzFeed News reported.

    This sounds very much like a last-minute grandiose panic blunder, by the prevaricating, penny-pinching, unprepared, of the brute-force and stupidity mentality!!

    As with tsunami warning systems, we need some seriously reliable detection and tracking systems in place, to give sufficient time for planned, effective, action!

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