World’s Space Agencies Unite To Save Planet Earth: UN Approves Plans For Global Network Of Top Scientists To Blast Asteroids
+ Chelyabinsk meteor hit in February and injured more than a 1,000 people
+ Association of Space Explorers proposals aim to mitigate further collisions
+ They include the creation of an ‘International Asteroid Warning Network’
+ The group, backed by the UN, also hopes scientists from around the world will work together on technologies to divert asteroids
A fleet of kamikaze spacecraft could be used to defend Earth against asteroid strikes. The robotic vessels would change the direction of any threatening space rock to prevent it from crashing into the planet. The prediction came as the UN discussed plans for an international asteroid defense network.
Elements of the plan, introduced last week, have now been approved by the United Nations and could be implemented as early as December. The plan aims to create an International Asteroid Warning Network so countries can share what they know about asteroids.
It will also organize groups of scientists’ from various space agencies to think up ways in which smaller asteroids can be diverted away from Earth.
A meteor, or asteroid fragment, that exploded over Russia in February injured more than 1,000 people.
Scientists estimate there are a million asteroids big enough to destroy New York, and that an object big enough to threaten civilisation comes along once every few million years.
The veteran NASA astronaut Tom Jones advocates defending the planetby using ‘a fleet of robot spacecraft to slam into the asteroids’ to deflect them.
Other options include using a ‘gravity tractor’ to tow asteroids off course and pummeling them with paintballs.
The option of blowing them up, as in the Bruce Willis film Armageddon, is likely to be the last resort.
But Sergio Camacho-Lara, of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs, said: ‘The asteroids are there. It’s a question of finding them before they find us.’
This graphic shows the orbits of all the known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs), numbering over 1,400 as of early 2013. These are the asteroids considered hazardous because they are fairly large (at least 460 feet or 140 meters in size), and because they follow orbits that pass close to the Earth’s orbit (source/view larger).
Professor Richard Crowther, of the UK Space Agency, said: ‘It is always good to rehearse these things well in advance.’
The worry is specifically on smaller asteroids – those that are more than 450 feet across but smaller than 1 kilometre (0.6 miles).
Existing telescopes were unable to warn of the Chelyabinsk meteor, which released 440 kilotons of explosive energy and injured more than a thousand people. The first that most space agencies heard of the impact was through Twitter and Facebook.
‘Because near-Earth asteroid searches have focused almost exclusively on large objects with global destructive potential, 99 per cent of the objects big enough to level a major metropolitan area remain undiscovered,’ the group said in a statement.
‘As technology improves and hundreds of thousands of new asteroids are found, the global community will likely be confronted by one posing a worryingly high probability of striking Earth.’
Last month the U.S. and Russia signed an agreement to develop technology that could one day lead to weapons being used to destroy asteroids hurtling towards Earth. [Read…]
Entitled the 'Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Russian Federation on Cooperation in Nuclear - and Energy-Related Scientific Research and Development', the document provides the legal framework needed to expand cooperation between U.S. and Russian nuclear research laboratories.
NASA claims astronomers have detected more than 10,000 asteroids with orbits that could potentially bring them closer, or in contact, with Earth.
The UN Is Getting Into The Asteroid Impact Prevention Game
Around nine per cent of these are believed to be around 3,000 feet long, according to reports in The Atlantic.
The most threatening of these, predicted to strike only once every 700,000 to 100 million years, could desolate the planet - similar to the asteroid believed to have killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
However, as Douglas Birch from the The Center of Public Integrity, explains: 'Even smaller rocks between 460 and 3,170 feet wide can flatten cities or wreak havoc.'
The theory has also been used in science fiction films, for example, in the 1998 blockbuster film Armageddon, an asteroid the size of Texas threatens earth and a team of astronauts, led by Bruce Willis, fly towards it and blow it up. [Related: Michael Bay Apologizes For ‘Armageddon’]
Two years ago, research physicist and nuclear weapons designer David Dearborn, from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California received a discretionary grant for his work into solving how the weapons could be used.
His work runs parallel to that of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where American nuclear weapons are designed.
Research scientist Robert Weaver, from the laboratory, has been studying the effects of detonations on asteroids since 2012 and has simulated explosions using the Energy Department’s Cielo supercomputer.
Elsewhere, Keith Holsapple, from Washington University recently received a million-dollar research grant from NASA to discover if an 'impact device or nuclear explosion could deflect an asteroid from its path.'
Source: Daily Mail
Recommended: "Defending Earth From Asteroids" with Neil DeGrasse Tyson (Conference @ the American Museum of Natural History)