Hollywood has made several movies that center on how humans could destroy an asteroid or comet that was on a trajectory to hit the Earth. Some astronomers believe that the chance of an asteroid impact is high enough to warrant preparation and plans to be readied to prevent such a catastrophe.
The most credible asteroid threat to the Earth that we know of today is the Apophis asteroid that was estimated to have a one in 250,000 chance of striking the Earth. NASA announced in October 2009 that the asteroid is expected to pass within 18,000 miles of Earth in 2029. NASA later said that it has “all but ruled out” the chance of the asteroid hitting the Earth in 2036.
Despite NASA determining that the asteroid will not hit the Earth, Russian scientists are readying a plan to prevent the potential impact. The Russian plan reads like something Bruce Willis would be involved with, yet the plan is surprisingly void of oil field workers. The Russian researchers are considering a plan to send a spacecraft to bump the large asteroid to a safer orbit.
Scientist Anatoly Perminov told a Russian radio station Golos Rossii, “People’s lives are at stake. We should pay several hundred million dollars and build a system that would allow us to prevent a collision, rather than sit and wait for it to happen and kill hundreds of thousands of people.”
He continued saying, “Calculations show that it’s possible to create a special-purpose spacecraft within the time we have, which would help avoid the collision. The threat of collision can be averted.”
Perminov states that the details of the plan still need to be worked out, but he invited NASA, the ESA, and other space agencies to participate in the planning. The Guardian reports that space researcher Matt Genge from the Imperial College London has calculated that a spaceship to move the asteroid to a different trajectory would only need to have the approximate mass, acceleration, and thrust of a small car to push the asteroid out of the path of Earth in 75 days.
Other methods to change the trajectory of an asteroid include mirrors, light, or paint to change the way the asteroid absorbs heat enough to shift its direction. These methods would take about 20 years to change the path of the asteroid.
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