Russia may send spacecraft to knock away asteroid

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Aero
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Russia may send spacecraft to knock away asteroid

Post by Aero »

- Russia's space agency chief said Wednesday a spacecraft may be dispatched to knock a large asteroid off course and reduce the chances of earth impact, even though U.S. scientists say such a scenario is unlikely.

http://apnews.excite.com/article/200912 ... VIG00.html

I think that if we don't prepare a system and method to divert asteroids, then we will wait until it is to late. What do you think? Should we practice on this asteroid or should we wait for one that we must divert and hope for success on the first try?
Aero

TallDave
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Post by TallDave »

We should definitely be building capability. This should get at least twice as much funding as global warming.

It's not a question of if, but when and how bad.

DeltaV
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Post by DeltaV »

They could use Tsar Bomba to ensure vaporization and avoid the shotgun effect.
Apophis: < 500 m dia.
Fireball: 2.3 km dia.

Image

If no Tsar Bombas remain, I vote for a Polywell pusher crash program.

IntLibber
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Post by IntLibber »

the russian space industry has a predeliction for making such statements as trial balloons. they've made similar proposals for translunar tourist trips and mars missions. When was the last time the russians sent a probe beyond earth orbit?

Tom Ligon
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Post by Tom Ligon »

I've actually attended an Asteroid Deflection Symposium, as a member of SIGMA and at the invitation of DHS. The effort in the US is essentially unfunded.

http://www.aere.iastate.edu/fileadmin/w ... S_2008.pdf

NASA is in charge of launch capacity, but says "no bucks, no Buck Rogers." They do have a mandate to dream stuff up. The Air Force is perfectly willing to look at ways of harming asteroids ... they figure they are experts at hitting stuff, but again have essentially no budget and only have a few people looking in to it. That leaves the bulk of the activity to a few people Iowa State and anyone they can snag into it, including SF authors working pro bono.

The good news is there is an effort underway to identify all the Earth-crossing asteroids, and they appear to be well along toward that goal. This is an activity even amateur astronmers can contribute to, but it is a pro program. So if there is a threat, we will probably detect it in time, and get a mission funded. Presuming the threat is detected in plenty of time (likely if the present detection program proceeds), we may have a good chance of doing something about it.

IntLibber
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Post by IntLibber »

Tom Ligon wrote:I've actually attended an Asteroid Deflection Symposium, as a member of SIGMA and at the invitation of DHS. The effort in the US is essentially unfunded.

http://www.aere.iastate.edu/fileadmin/w ... S_2008.pdf

NASA is in charge of launch capacity, but says "no bucks, no Buck Rogers." They do have a mandate to dream stuff up. The Air Force is perfectly willing to look at ways of harming asteroids ... they figure they are experts at hitting stuff, but again have essentially no budget and only have a few people looking in to it. That leaves the bulk of the activity to a few people Iowa State and anyone they can snag into it, including SF authors working pro bono.

The good news is there is an effort underway to identify all the Earth-crossing asteroids, and they appear to be well along toward that goal. This is an activity even amateur astronmers can contribute to, but it is a pro program. So if there is a threat, we will probably detect it in time, and get a mission funded. Presuming the threat is detected in plenty of time (likely if the present detection program proceeds), we may have a good chance of doing something about it.
Yeah, the WISE mission just cracked the lens cap the other day, its going to find a lot of stuff in the infrared, including a lot of NEO's as well as whatever other planets are hiding out in the KBO, and possibly Nemesis, the theoretical companion star (red or brown dwarf) to the Sun that Muller et al claim causes the periodicity in mass extinctions. It should be about 1 ly away at the moment, possibly somewhere in Taurus.

Tom Ligon
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Post by Tom Ligon »

Here's more on the NASA Near Earth Object detection program, plus a link to a report on deflecting hazardous objects.

http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/index.html

http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/neo/pdc_paper.html

At the moment, I would say we are quite vulnerable, but the good news is a civilization-ending strike in the next few decades is highly unlikely. They are watching Aphophis like a hawk, and it does not appear to be a factor out to 2036 (it has been the most likely known object that could possibly pose a significant threat in the next few decades, and many of the deflection schemes used it as their model).

The key here is getting lots of warning. If something were coming in soon, like the next year or two, all we could do is watch. With 2 decades or more of warning, possiblities start opening up.

I'd love to be able to attend a conference next fall and be able to report Polywells really do work ... the options for deflecting, or exploiting, asteroids would expand enormously if that good news developed. In 2008 we were discussing "gravity tugs" based on the DS-1 xenon ion thrusters ... under 3 kW of power and about 93 millinewtons of thrust, capable of deflecting Aphophis maybe 30 kilometers with a 12-year head start. What we need is deflecting objects a hundred times that mass by well over an Earth radius.

IntLibber
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Post by IntLibber »

Tom Ligon wrote:Here's more on the NASA Near Earth Object detection program, plus a link to a report on deflecting hazardous objects.

http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/index.html

http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/neo/pdc_paper.html

At the moment, I would say we are quite vulnerable, but the good news is a civilization-ending strike in the next few decades is highly unlikely. They are watching Aphophis like a hawk, and it does not appear to be a factor out to 2036 (it has been the most likely known object that could possibly pose a significant threat in the next few decades, and many of the deflection schemes used it as their model).

The key here is getting lots of warning. If something were coming in soon, like the next year or two, all we could do is watch. With 2 decades or more of warning, possiblities start opening up.

I'd love to be able to attend a conference next fall and be able to report Polywells really do work ... the options for deflecting, or exploiting, asteroids would expand enormously if that good news developed. In 2008 we were discussing "gravity tugs" based on the DS-1 xenon ion thrusters ... under 3 kW of power and about 93 millinewtons of thrust, capable of deflecting Aphophis maybe 30 kilometers with a 12-year head start. What we need is deflecting objects a hundred times that mass by well over an Earth radius.
Dealing with the rubble piles is easy, we just have to plant nukes on em and blast em into little rubble piles. The ferrous ones are also relatively easy: put a mass driver on there and use the asteroids own mass as propellant.

Its the rocky solid ones that are a bigger problem. Bigger yet are the long period comets that have a collision course on their first known time to the inner system, though their mass is useful for propellant, the best solution with those is lasers on the moon to boil off mass to deflect. That sort of a laser would be considered a weapons system that would require some treaty modifications.

Going out to meet the object is a waste of time unless we have decades. We can deliver more power to the target with lasers located where they can access a ton of power.

Tom Ligon
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Post by Tom Ligon »

Nuclear weapons in space also would cause heartburn in the treaty department. If a killer asteroid were inbound, I expect a waiver of some sort would be approved by all concerned in minutes, but one of the problems with the "nuclear option" is gaining approval to try the technique out on a harmless rock ahead of time. We really don't know much about asteroids, structurally, which makes blowing them up uncertain.

Not that we would not try if we had no other options.

The less drastic nuclear option would use nearby nuclear explosions to nudge the asteroid to one side (a bit like the old Orion nuclear propulsion proposal). Here, one proposal said to be sure to refer to the nuclear devices as "propulsive units" rather than weapons. Worth a try ... but again any practice work would certainly produce a squalk.

If we could get large lasers to Luna, that would suppose a space-based industry that would make asteroid herding seem less far-fetched. Right now it would be a major undertaking to soft-land anything bigger than a Mars Rover on the moon.

Placing mass drivers on asteroids also supposes space transportation capability we presently lack (but could develop, expecially with Polywell power). Mass drivers have a major drawback for the application: a single mass driver must thrust thru the center of mass of the object, and if the object is spinning it can only thrust on the axis of spin. As a practical matter, it would probably be necessary to de-spin the asteroid before deflecting it. De-spinning may actually be the harder step. The advantage of gravity tugs is they work on a spinning body.

TallDave
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Post by TallDave »

I wouldn't worry about that too much; a treaty doesn't mean much in the face of an existential threat. If an asteroid is threatening Earth and nukes are the best answer, we won't wait for the lawyers and politicians to hash out a modified space weapons ban (working out the graft alone could take years).

glemieux
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Post by glemieux »

Tom Ligon wrote: We really don't know much about asteroids, structurally, which makes blowing them up uncertain.
Going slightly off-topic, this fact has me thinking that the White House will base it's vision for NASA next month on the "flexible path" recommendation made by the Augustine commission. Working on the infrastructure and logistics to get humans on an asteroid, while not necessary for deflecting one, will certainly go a long way towards putting money into projects towards that end (in-space refueling, heavy launcher, pre-cursor missions for more detailed study, etc).

Additionally, it looks like there is a sample return mission currently under review at NASA: http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/spotlight.php?ID=61

pfrit
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Post by pfrit »

IntLibber wrote:
Tom Ligon wrote:Here's more on the NASA Near Earth Object detection program, plus a link to a report on deflecting hazardous objects.

http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/index.html

http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/neo/pdc_paper.html

At the moment, I would say we are quite vulnerable, but the good news is a civilization-ending strike in the next few decades is highly unlikely. They are watching Aphophis like a hawk, and it does not appear to be a factor out to 2036 (it has been the most likely known object that could possibly pose a significant threat in the next few decades, and many of the deflection schemes used it as their model).

The key here is getting lots of warning. If something were coming in soon, like the next year or two, all we could do is watch. With 2 decades or more of warning, possiblities start opening up.

I'd love to be able to attend a conference next fall and be able to report Polywells really do work ... the options for deflecting, or exploiting, asteroids would expand enormously if that good news developed. In 2008 we were discussing "gravity tugs" based on the DS-1 xenon ion thrusters ... under 3 kW of power and about 93 millinewtons of thrust, capable of deflecting Aphophis maybe 30 kilometers with a 12-year head start. What we need is deflecting objects a hundred times that mass by well over an Earth radius.
Dealing with the rubble piles is easy, we just have to plant nukes on em and blast em into little rubble piles. The ferrous ones are also relatively easy: put a mass driver on there and use the asteroids own mass as propellant.

Its the rocky solid ones that are a bigger problem. Bigger yet are the long period comets that have a collision course on their first known time to the inner system, though their mass is useful for propellant, the best solution with those is lasers on the moon to boil off mass to deflect. That sort of a laser would be considered a weapons system that would require some treaty modifications.

Going out to meet the object is a waste of time unless we have decades. We can deliver more power to the target with lasers located where they can access a ton of power.
It would be yet another side benefit to a GEO space based power system. As far as it being a weapon, ANY space based power system would be by definition a weapon. Indeed, the fact that it can be used as a weapon would be the reason that it would be developed in the first place. Maybe not overtly, but you can bet the farm that the NSA would have control of the targeting system.
What is the difference between ignorance and apathy? I don't know and I don't care.

CaptainBeowulf
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Post by CaptainBeowulf »

I seem to remember reading in a few places years ago that our nukes (<50 megatonnes) are not powerful enough to destroy a large, "earth-killer" asteroid composed of stuff like dense rock and iron. Even if you took up several of the largest available nukes on multiple launches, assembled them together, and sent them at the asteroid, you still probably wouldn't have enough power. The Orion/Daedalus approach is probably the most feasible: attach a series of nukes to the asteroid and use the explosions to deflect it.

Maybe if you had a >1000 megatonne antimatter warhead you could annihilate one of those things... if the particle accelerator won't work for finding a Higgs boson, maybe we could use it to make antihydrogen? :lol:

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