Proposal To Move An Asteroid
Edward Lu of the B612 Foundation recently spoke before the Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space of the Senate Commerce Committee regarding methods of defending ourselves against asteroid impacts.
(From Asteroid Ida [From NASA])
He offered what the B612 Foundation called a "bold new proposal" to demonstrate altering the orbit of an asteroid. As he points out, there is a ten percent chance that during our lifetimes there will be an asteriod striking Earth with the energy of 700 Hiroshima-sized bombs. Not to mention the much more remote chance of a civilization-ending strike. They will be starting with something a bit smaller than Ida, shown above. At roughly 56x24x21 kilometers in size, it's a bit larger than the B612 group wants to tackle - maybe something about 200 meters in diameter might be better to start with.
The group proposes using Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) engines, which uses radio waves to ionize a gass and accelerate the plasma to high exhaust velocity.
However, this is not a new idea; it was proposed some sixty-five years previously in Misfit, a short story published by Robert Heinlein in 1939. The story introduces the character of Andrew "Slipstick" Libby, a mathematical genius who worked in the Cosmic Construction Corps while still a young boy. Their project: move Asteroid HS-5388 to a new orbit for habitation. (Historians of that era may enjoy the play on CCC - the Civilian Conservation Corps of the Roosevelt administration, which offered constructive work during the Great Depression.)
In the story, the asteroid is moved with permanently mounted rocket tubes, that would fire at precise intervals with exactly the right amount of force, to nudge the asteroid into a new orbit.
Update 26-Dec-2006: I found an older reference for this idea. In Edmond Hamilton's 1934 story Thundering Worlds, he explicitly mentions the same technique of carefully positioned blast pits.
Huge pits miles across and many miles deep were sunk in each planet at three points around its equator. These pits were metal-lined and thus were in fact stupendous tubes sunk in the planet.
(Read more about planetary propulsion End update)
See Why Move An Asteriod? for more information. More information about the technology that might be used for this mission may be found at Mission Possible: Asteroid Tugboat Backed For Trial Run.
Update: Take a look at Hayabusa Spacecraft Makes First Asteroid Landing for more on this topic; there is also a long quote from Heinlein's story.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/17/2004)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 5 )
Related News Stories -
ADEPT Heat Shield Works For Mars
'...A synthetic which air-friction would erode away...' - EE Doc Smith, 1934.
Nuke Mars To Terraform It, Says Elon Musk
'... Mars could not be made habitable without first being stocked with air and water...' - Olaf Stapledon, 1930.
Texas-Sized Ice Slab Found On Mars
'That's okay, still ice in The Rock and a miner expects to sound for it...'- Robert Heinlein, 1966.
NASA Turns To Museum Space Shuttles For Parts
Tropes true to life.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Harvard's Robobees Now 'Fly' Underwater
'...the Scarab buzzed into the great workroom as any intruding insect might, and sought the security of a shadowed corner.'
ADEPT Heat Shield Works For Mars
'...A synthetic which air-friction would erode away...'
Ultralight Origami Crane UAV Flexes Its Wings
'They began to flex their wings.'
UM Solar Car Now Also With IBM Research Power
'It drew its power from six square yards of sunpower screens on its low curved roof.'
Robot-Based Trash Collection
'Robots pick up the garbage and junk and load it in there...'
Warrior Web Exoskeleton For Soldiers Undergo Tests
'The real genius in the design is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it...'
Tesla Promises Fully Autonomous Cars By 2018
'It's been a criminal offense for at least a hundred years to drive manually on a public highway.'
Light Molecules (And Maybe Light Sabers, Someday)
'It will be matter, matter made of light...'
Telepresence In The Office
'That led to his development of robot probes; small devices with cameras and sound equipment which could move freely... under direct control.'
Piper, Google's 2 Billion Line Code Repository, Needs A Cool Display
'The student pointed a finger and as he did so, the line of equations marched down the wall...'
WEpod Driverless Vehicle On The Netherlands Roads
'The car moved smoothly away. Mirelly-Lyra half relaxed; she was not steering.'
Computer Predicts Psychosis Better Than Psychiatrists
'The mechanism which was the portable extension of Dr. Smile...'
Robot Evolution Needs Mass Extinction Events
'It was small, one of the baby ones.'
Lab-Grown Kidneys Implanted Successfully - In Animals
'For a while your colonists will have to come up to the Hospital to get treatment with the ramrobot symbiots...'
Korean Lab Ready To Clone Your Dog
Man's best friend, cloned.
DARPA NeuroTech Hand With Natural Sensation
'Take care, sir.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories