Monday, 01 June, 2020


This is how MIT wants to save Earth from murderous asteroids

Bennu one of the two objects used as a test case in the MIT study Bennu one of the two objects used as a test case in the MIT study
Kristine Garrett | 26 February, 2020, 18:21

If sci-fi films have shown us anything, it's that sparing Earth from a stellar space rock is going to take some enormous drills and most likely atomic weapons.

"Individuals have, for the most part, considered methodologies of a minute ago diversion when the space rock has gone through a keyhole and is making a beeline for a crash with Earth", lead scientist MIT's Sung Wook Paek, who drove the examination, said in an announcement. It's like a preemptive strike, with less mess.

Prompted by the need to boost search for unsafe asteroids, Leiden University " s researchers developed the "Hazardous Object Identifier", a neural network capable of predicting if a space rock would come on a collision course with Earth.

A better option would be to use a 'kinetic impactor, ' such as a rocket or large projectile to knock the asteroid off course, similar to hitting a billiard ball with a cue. That means knowing how large the asteroid is and its mass.

The problem with this second method is that it is necessary to know the properties of the asteroid, such as mass, velocity and surface composition quite accurately.

“Does it matter if the probability of success of a mission is 99.9 percent or only 90 percent? “Therefore we have to be smarter when wedesign missions as a function of the level of uncertainty. However, a team from MIT has conducted a study of all the current plans for deflecting an asteroid and developed a model to determine the best course of action based on several crucial variables. The study also factored how close the asteroid was to gravitational keyhole, and the warning time scientists had before it passed through the keyhole. Alternative three comprises two scouts.

Another involved dispatching a "scout" before the projectile, to measure the asteroid and advise scientists on what type of projectile to resort to.

Sending two scouts: one to measure the asteroid and the other to push it slightly off course before a large projectile can be used to ensure it misses Earth, like a game of cosmic billiards. In the case of Apophis, its passage would still be about five years or more away, enough time to develop a plan if necessary. Between two and five years, the most reliable option is to send one scout followed by a projectile from earth.

"Even a main impactor may not be able to reach the asteroid within this timeframe", he said.

The tests ran on Bennu, and Apophis turned out to be very efficient.

If another asteroid did approach, "All we have to do is change its speed a little faster or a little slower so that when it crosses Earth's orbit, it crosses either in front of us or behind us", Dr. Lori Glaze, director of planetary science at NASA, told CBS News previous year. Or we could launch projectiles from the moon or use defunct satellites as kinetic impactors, ” Paek says.

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