Human Achievement of the Day: Averting Armageddon
No, I’m not talking about a bad Bruce Willis movie (science has yet to come up with a way to prevent box office boredom bombs). I’m talking about a device that scientists came up with this past September that will have the ability to redirect an asteroid if it’s on a collision course with Earth.
In the event that astronomers discover an asteroid likely to collide with earth (so long as we have a 20 year head start) scientists will launch the craft. It will then slowly pull the deadly planetoid out of line with our home world.
Researchers’ latest invention is designed with the goal of attracting asteroids towards itself using a small gravitation force on the cosmic object. Then the spacecraft would guide the asteroid away from the planet. Four low-energy ion thrusters would be used to help the spacecraft adjust its arrangement relative to the asteroid. The latter’s gravitational pull would be quite enough to move the cosmic object into a less dangerous orbit.
Why it is important: While the likelihood of a large asteroid colliding with the Earth is slim, it isn’t impossible. It would only take one of the many near-earth objects to cause serious damage.
The “gravity tractor” spacecraft will be able to divert an asteroid of up to 430 yards (393 meters) in diameter. Scientists consider that if the asteroid of such size hits the planet, the impact would discharge 100,000 times the energy of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima at the end of the Second World War.
While 393 meters is no Texas (at 1400 kilometers across there is no asteroid in our solar system that large; the largest being just 900 kilometers wide) presumably, the larger the asteroid the more likely it is that astronomers will spot it early and this tractor can have more time to affect its path. So, stop your worrying about the doomsday rock and give a cheer for a scientific advancement that could end up saving the lives of every human being on the planet!
Now, if they could just come up with a device to prevent bad sci-fi movies from hitting the box office…Superman picture via Newsarama.com President Freeman picture via Pollsb.com