While some scientists plan to blow up an asteroid others want one

first_imgWe’ve all seen Armageddon, the popular 1998 film by Michael Bay featuring Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck. The plot of the movie revolves around these blue-collar deep-core drillers sent by NASA to stop a humongous asteroid that’s on a collision course with Earth. As we learned from that movie, asteroids hurling towards Earth are bad, which gives many of us cause to scratch our heads when hearing about Hexi Baoyin and crew at the Tsinghua University in Beijing who are actually trying to pull an asteroid into an orbit around the Earth.Apparently, nudging a small asteroid towards the direction of Earth is pretty straightforward. The team was inspired by the comet Oterma that Jupiter’s gasses sucked into its orbit in 1936. The comet orbited the planet for about two years before floating back into the Solar System.Bayoin and his team have studied the orbits of the 6,000 known Near Earth Objects and don’t think it’s actually possible for any of them to come close enough as to allow Earth’s orbit can capture one of them by itself. So, they think a little nudge will do the trick, and there are a few NEOs that will come very close allowing just a little bump to make them enter Earth’s orbit as a small satellite.The 2008EA9, a 10-meter-sized object, will pass within about 1 million km of Earth in 2049, and has a similar orbital velocity as Earth’s. Bayoin and his team think that the NEO could be bumped into Earth’s orbit by a mere velocity change of 410 meters per second. The asteroid would be in an orbit about twice the distance of the Moon where it can be easily studied and mined before it floats off into the Solar System just like Oterma did.In other news, a different group of scientists at Tsinghua University are working on a plan to actually stop an asteroid that may potentially impact Earth. The asteroid, named 99942 Apophis, is a 46 million tonne, 1,600-foot-wide asteroid that’s currently heading towards Earth. The asteroid is set to pass Earth safely around the year 2029, which is a relief. But, there’s a teensy-weensy chance that the asteroid will pass through a small gravitational keyhole that would essentially turn it around to remain on its path towards Earth. The chance of this happening is 1 in 250,000, but still, it’s better to be safe than sorry.The researchers from Tsinghua University plan to smash the asteroid before it can enter the gravitational keyhole, which is about a 6,000-mile area of space. The goal is to build a 10kg solar sail which will orbit around the Earth and build up enough speed that by the time it hits the asteroid, it will be moving at 90km/s and will bash the space rock to pieces. The European Space Agency also plans to send two spacecrafts to the asteroid. The first spacecraft will do the smashing, and the second will observe the impact so that future asteroid-smashing scientists will know what to do in case another space rock comes our way.via MIT Technology Bloglast_img

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