Scotland: Mission: Destroy Asteroids
By Dialogo July 01, 2012
It’s the plot of so many action movies: An asteroid is heading for Earth, and
scientists are scrambling to stop it in time. It seems two scientists in real life
have a theory on how to do it — assuming you have eight years’ notice.
“A 500-kilogram swarm of fingernail-sized spacecraft would, they calculate,
deflect a fast-moving, 250-meter asteroid by nearly 35,000 kilometers — easily
enough to avoid a collision, provided the swarm hits eight years, or about three
orbits, before the expected Earth impact,” according to a report on the New
Scientist website. “A swarm could be launched from Earth in a single rocket. After
release, pebbles could harness the thrust provided by reflected sunlight to steer
themselves into a tight cloud directed at the asteroid.”
The pair of scientists — Alison Gibbings and Massimiliano Vasile, aerospace
engineers at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland — presented their
research at the Astrobiology Science Conference in April 2012.