The newly revised Space Studies Institute (SSI), founded by Dr. Gerard K. O’Neill, website includes section on asteroid deflection and mitigation.
" For a long while, the conventional wisdom on this issue was that one would use nuclear explosives for this purpose. But according to a paper published in the June 4th, 1998 issue of Nature, this may not be as easy as previously thought. It points out that many asteroids are multi-lobed. A nuclear detonation might be largely absorbed by one lobe, with little course deflection resulting in the whole. The paper theorizes that the average asteroid may not be so much like a solid rock as an aggregate of fragments loosely held together by fine dust. If this “flying gravel pile” theory is correct, a nuclear detonation might pulverize an approaching asteroid, converting one big problem into many little ones...A mass driver engine, by contrast, could provide the low, steady, continuous thrust needed to change an asteroid’s course gradually, using the asteroid’s own material for reaction mass."
"Critical mass driver subsystems have been developed to technology readiness level 6 by SSI at Princeton University under contract NASA and private funding...A concept that has received relatively little attention in the literature is the employment of a mass driver to apply a steady acceleration to the asteroid which, given sufficient time, will develop lateral movements that can convert a strike on earth into a miss. The major advantage of this approach is that all the energy comes from the sun and all the reaction mass is obtained from the mass of the asteroid itself. The only mass that needs to be transported to the asteroid is that of the solar collectors, power supplies and acceleration coils which convert electrical energy to kinetic energy."
Link: Asteroid Deflection at SSI
Link: Asteroid Mitigation at SSI
This area will cover relevant news of the threat to the planet from Near Earth Objects (NEOs) including concepts and designs for mitigation. All opinions are those of the author.
27 February 2006
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