Change asteroid orbit one scoop at a time to save Earth? Forget NASA DART? Shocking answer here

Electronic catapults, yes catapults, could be used to deflect any asteroid heading for Earth, according to Nahum Melamed at the Aerospace Corporation.

| Updated on: Jul 05 2023, 11:09 IST
5 huge Asteroids approaching Earth, NASA warns
Scientists to collect regolith from the surface of an asteroid and chuck it into space.
1/5 Asteroid 2023 MU2- The asteroid will make closest to the earth on 25th June, According to NASA, the asteroid is 16 feet wide. The asteroid is moving at a speed of 16266 kilometers per hour and it will get as close as 135,000 miles to Earth. (NASA)
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2/5 Asteroid 2023 MF1- This is a 120 feet wide asteroid, it will make its closest approach to Earth on 25th June. The asteroid is already rushing towards Earth at a speed of 63986 kilometers per hour and will pass the Earth at a distance of 1,200,000 miles. (NASA)
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3/5 Asteroid 2023 MD- This asteroid is 90 Feet wide and it will be the closest to the Earth on 25th June. It is traveling towards the Earth at a speed of 14825 kilometers per hour. It will come as close as 1,660,000 miles. (NASA)
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4/5 Asteroid 2023 ME1-  The close approach of Asteroid 2023 ME1, a celestial body comparable in size to an airplane that is 88 feet wide, is set to occur on June 26. Racing towards Earth at an impressive velocity of 43685 kilometers per hour, this asteroid will narrowly miss our planet, passing by at a distance of 3.03 million miles. (NASA)
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5/5 Asteroid 2023 MS2- On June 27th, the asteroid will come closest to Earth, as stated by NASA. Its width is reported to be 120 feet, and it is currently moving at a speed of 39770 kilometers per hour and will pass the Earth at a distance of 2,360,000 miles. (NASA)
Scientists to collect regolith from the surface of an asteroid and chuck it into space.
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Scientists to collect regolith from the surface of an asteroid and chuck it into space. (NASA)

An asteroid can be a serious threat to Earth. In fact, it can be a catastrophic event based on how big it is. Therefore, it is urgent and necessary to tackle the threat posed by asteroids that may crash into our planet and this can be done by finding ways to alter the asteroid's orbit and make it move away from Earth. NASA has tried that by crashing a spacecraft against an asteroid and successfully moved it from its orbit. Now, a company has come up with an ingenious solution.

A California-based nonprofit organization is looking to meet this threat by designing a new asteroid deflection system that would use the space rock's own regolith to change its trajectory away from Earth.

“We were looking at objects of similar size [to the Chelyabinsk asteroid that occurred in 2013] that could touch earth's atmosphere in our lifetime,” Nahum Melamed, a project leader at The Aerospace Corporation, told Gizmodo in an interview. He added that the asteroid could be moved away from its orbital path with a system that will take just a 'few weeks of operation'.

How will the plan be executed?

As per Melamed, a suborbital accelerator will be landed on the concerned asteroid. The craft will lock itself to the asteroid and will start taking small scoops of regolith (a layer of unconsolidated rocky material) and fling it out - 20 pounds per scoop. It would be enough to move the asteroid away.

“By pushing it away from the asteroid, the asteroid will recoil and will get deflected by a tiny bit,” Gizmodo quoted Melamed as saying.

According to The Aerospace Corporation, the small asteroid ranging from 30 to 60 meters can be deflected in a matter of weeks however, a larger asteroid could take up to months.

Researchers believe that this method would be easier than NASA's DART mission, which was also quite costly - it was over $300 million and some estimates put it at $340 million.

To accomplish this mission, it will take years of research and development, but there is no guarantee of success. However, if it works, then the deflecting asteroids and comet attacks would not be such a huge problem. That the problem is very much there is clear from the Chelyabinsk asteroid explosion that caused injuries to thousands of people. It exploded in the air above the city on February 15, 2013.

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First Published Date: 05 Jul, 10:53 IST