Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How To Deflect Asteroids And Save Earth

Date:
April 20, 2009
Source:
North Carolina State University
Summary:
You may want to thank David French in advance. Because, in the event that a comet or asteroid comes hurtling toward Earth, he may be the guy responsible for saving the planet. He has determined a way to effectively divert asteroids and other threatening objects from impacting Earth by attaching a long tether and ballast to the incoming object.

These are views of the three asteroids that have been imaged at close range by spacecraft. The image of Mathilde (left) was taken by the NEAR spacecraft on June 27, 1997. Images of the asteroids Gaspra (middle) and Ida (right) were taken by the Galileo spacecraft in 1991 and 1993, respectively. All three objects are presented at the same scale.
Credit: Courtesy of NASA/Near Earth Object Program

You may want to thank David French in advance. Because, in the event that a comet or asteroid comes hurtling toward Earth, he may be the guy responsible for saving the entire planet.

Related Articles


French, a doctoral candidate in aerospace engineering at North Carolina State University, has determined a way to effectively divert asteroids and other threatening objects from impacting Earth by attaching a long tether and ballast to the incoming object. By attaching the ballast, French explains, "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."

Sound far-fetched? 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 explains.

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 answer? Yes.

"It's hard to imagine the scale of both the problem and the potential solutions," French says. "The Earth has been hit by objects from space many times before, so we know how bad the effects could be. For example, about 65 million years ago, a very large asteroid is thought to have hit the Earth in the southern Gulf of Mexico, wiping out the dinosaurs, and, in 1907, a very small airburst of a comet over Siberia flattened a forest over an area equal in size to New York City. The scale of our solution is similarly hard to imagine.

"Using a tether somewhere between 1,000 kilometers (roughly the distance from Raleigh to Miami) to 100,000 kilometers (you could wrap this around the Earth two and a half times) to divert an asteroid sounds extreme. But compare it to other schemes," French says, "They are all pretty far out. 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 of course, there are nukes. Nuclear weapons are an intriguing possibility, but have considerable political and technical obstacles. Would the rest of the world trust us to nuke an asteroid? Would we trust anyone else? And would the asteroid break into multiple asteroids, giving us more problems to solve?"

The research was first presented last month at the NC State Graduate Student Research Symposium in Raleigh, N.C. The research, "Trajectory Diversion of an Earth-Threatening Asteroid via Elastic, Massive Tether-Ballast System," has also been reviewed and accepted for presentation this September at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SPACE 2009 Conference and Exposition in Pasadena, CA.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by North Carolina State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

North Carolina State University. "How To Deflect Asteroids And Save Earth." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 April 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090416125212.htm>.
North Carolina State University. (2009, April 20). How To Deflect Asteroids And Save Earth. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090416125212.htm
North Carolina State University. "How To Deflect Asteroids And Save Earth." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090416125212.htm (accessed March 30, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Monday, March 30, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

What NASA Wants To Learn From Its 'Year In Space' Tests

What NASA Wants To Learn From Its 'Year In Space' Tests

Newsy (Mar. 28, 2015) Astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will spend a year in space running tests on human physiology and psychology. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Crew Starts One-Year Space Mission

Crew Starts One-Year Space Mission

Reuters - News Video Online (Mar. 28, 2015) Russian-U.S. crew arrives safely at the International Space Station for the start of a ground-breaking year-long stay. Paul Chapman reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why So Many People Think NASA's Asteroid Mission Is A Waste

Why So Many People Think NASA's Asteroid Mission Is A Waste

Newsy (Mar. 27, 2015) The Asteroid Retrieval Mission announced this week bears little resemblance to its grand beginnings. Even NASA scientists are asking, "Why bother?" Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Station Crew Docks Safely

Space Station Crew Docks Safely

Reuters - News Video Online (Mar. 27, 2015) NASA TV footage shows the successful docking of a Russian Soyuz craft to the International Space Station for a year-long mission. Rough cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins