Asteroid deflection strategies

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Deflecting Doomsday Asteroids… and Plundering Them

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With thousands of asteroids, comets and other near-Earth object buzzing by our planet, Jorge Ribas finds out how we can avoid the same fate as the dinosaurs.

Apophis: The Asteroid That Could Smash Into The Earth on
Friday, April 13th, 2036

Apophis is an asteroid with an
slightly offset orbit to that of Earth's. Discovered in June 2004, astronomers have determined that it will make a very close flyby on April 13th, 2029, where it will pass to within 5 Earth diameters of us. The exact path the asteroid follows on its flyby in 2029 will determine whether it smashes into the Earth seven years later.
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Apophis would pass through a "gravitational keyhole", a precise region in space no more than about 400 meters across, that would set up a future impact on April 13, 2036.

End Of The World: Apophis Asteroid 2036

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Asteroid deflection strategies

Destruction concentrates on rendering the impactor harmless by fragmenting it and scattering the fragments so that they miss the Earth or burn up in the atmosphere. As will be shown, this does not always solve the problem, as sufficient amounts of material hitting the Earth at high speed can be devastating even if they are not collected together in a single body.

Delay exploits the fact that both the Earth and the impactor are in orbit. An impact occurs when both reach the same point in space at the same time, or more correctly when some point on Earth's surface intersects the impactor's orbit when the impactor arrives.

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The Goal of the
B612* Foundation is...
To significantly
alter the orbit of an asteroid, in a controlled manner, by 2015.

  • Asteroid and comet impacts have both destroyed and shaped life on Earth
    since it formed.
  • The Earth orbits the Sun in a vast swarm of near Earth asteroids (NEAs).
  • The probability of an unacceptable collision in this century
    is ~2%.
  • We now have the capability to anticipate an impact and to prevent
* B612 is the asteroid home of the Little Prince in Antoine de Saint-Exupery's child's story The Little Prince.

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In Defense of Earth: Keeping Asteroids at a Distance
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Pushing resource-rich asteroids around for profit and protecting Earth may be part of the space scene later this century. Click to enlarge.
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En route to Jupiter, NASA's Galileo examined asteroid Ida in August 1993, finding a second object, Dactyl - the first confirmed satellite or moon of an asteroid.
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The surface of asteroid Eros.

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Don Quijote concept
ESA's Don Quijote is an asteroid deflection precursor mission concept, designed to assess and validate the technology that one day could be used to deflect an asteroid threatening the Earth...
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Impacting into the asteroid
The key moment of the Don Quijote mission: the Impactor spacecraft (Hidalgo) smashes into the asteroid while observed, from a safe distance, by the Orbiter spacecraft (Sancho)
Impactor spacecraft
Hidalgo arrival to the asteroid
The moments before impact... The Impactor spacecraft (Hidalgo) heads towards the target asteroid.
Orbiter spacecraft
Orbiter (Sancho) operations
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New Scientist

'Gravity tractor' to deflect Earth-bound asteroids

NASA scientists have come up with a surprisingly simple yet effective way to deflect an Earth-bound asteroid - park a large spacecraft close by and let gravity do the work.

Previous suggestions have focused on deflecting an incoming asteroid with nuclear explosions. But NASA experts believe a "gravity tractor" should be able to perform the same feat by creating an invisible towline to tug the rock off its deadly course.


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  1. Deflecting Doomsday Asteroids… and Plundering Them | Astroengine.com
  2. YouTube - Doomsday Asteroid
  3. Apophis: The Asteroid That Could Smash Into The Earth on Friday, April 13th, 2036
  4. YouTube - End Of The World: Apophis Asteroid 2036
  5. Asteroid deflection strategies - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  7. In Defense of Earth: Keeping Asteroids at a Distance
  8. ESA - NEO - Don Quijote concept
  9. ESA - NEO - Don Quijote concept - images
  10. YouTube - Don Quijote Asteroid Deflection Mission
  11. 'Gravity tractor' to deflect Earth-bound asteroids - space - 09 November 2005 - New Scientist
  12. dn8291-1_800.jpg (JPEG Image, 800x514 pixels)
  1. Asteroid deflection - 04 August 2007 - New Scientist
  2. Piet Hut: Asteroid Deflection
  3. To Nuke or To Nudge