Proposal To Move An Asteroid
Edward Lu of the B612 Foundation recently spoke before the Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space of the Senate Commerce Committee regarding methods of defending ourselves against asteroid impacts.
(From Asteroid Ida [From NASA])
He offered what the B612 Foundation called a "bold new proposal" to demonstrate altering the orbit of an asteroid. As he points out, there is a ten percent chance that during our lifetimes there will be an asteriod striking Earth with the energy of 700 Hiroshima-sized bombs. Not to mention the much more remote chance of a civilization-ending strike. They will be starting with something a bit smaller than Ida, shown above. At roughly 56x24x21 kilometers in size, it's a bit larger than the B612 group wants to tackle - maybe something about 200 meters in diameter might be better to start with.
The group proposes using Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) engines, which uses radio waves to ionize a gass and accelerate the plasma to high exhaust velocity.
However, this is not a new idea; it was proposed some sixty-five years previously in Misfit, a short story published by Robert Heinlein in 1939. The story introduces the character of Andrew "Slipstick" Libby, a mathematical genius who worked in the Cosmic Construction Corps while still a young boy. Their project: move Asteroid HS-5388 to a new orbit for habitation. (Historians of that era may enjoy the play on CCC - the Civilian Conservation Corps of the Roosevelt administration, which offered constructive work during the Great Depression.)
In the story, the asteroid is moved with permanently mounted rocket tubes, that would fire at precise intervals with exactly the right amount of force, to nudge the asteroid into a new orbit.
Update 26-Dec-2006: I found an older reference for this idea. In Edmond Hamilton's 1934 story Thundering Worlds, he explicitly mentions the same technique of carefully positioned blast pits.
Huge pits miles across and many miles deep were sunk in each planet at three points around its equator. These pits were metal-lined and thus were in fact stupendous tubes sunk in the planet.
(Read more about planetary propulsion End update)
See Why Move An Asteriod? for more information. More information about the technology that might be used for this mission may be found at Mission Possible: Asteroid Tugboat Backed For Trial Run.
Update: Take a look at Hayabusa Spacecraft Makes First Asteroid Landing for more on this topic; there is also a long quote from Heinlein's story.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/17/2004)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 5 )
Related News Stories -
Elon Musk Tweets Versions Of Clarke's Operation Cleanup
'Fortunately, the old orbital forts were superbly equipped for this task.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1978.
Espresso Telescope Searches For Exoplanets
'These instruments were the wonderful ones our astronomers had perfected.' - Edmond Hamilton, 1936.
Manned Maneuvering Unit From 1984
'The glittering little rocket bolted to the black iron behind him.' - Jack Williamson, 1933.
Astronaut Gets Younger In Space
'So what we're looking for now is not an antibiotic - an anti-life drug - but an anti-agathic, an anti-death drug...' - James Blish, 1957.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Las Vegas Humans Ready To Strike Over Robots
'A worker replaced by a nubot... had to be compensated.'
You'll Regrow That Limb, One Day
'... forcing the energy transfer which allowed him to regrow his lost fingers.'
Elon Musk Seeks To Create 1941 Heinlein Speedster
'The car surged and lifted, clearing its top by a negligible margin.'
Somnox Sleep Robot - Your Sleepytime Cuddlebot
Science fiction authors are serious about sleep, too.
Real-Life Macau or Ghost In The Shell
Art imitates life imitates art.
Has Climate Change Already Been Solved By Aliens?
'I had explained," said Nessus, "that our civilisation was dying in its own waste heat.'
First 3D Printed Human Corneas From Stem Cells
Just what we need! Lots of spare parts.
VirtualHome: Teaching Robots To Do Chores Around The House
'Just what did I want Flexible Frank to do? - any work a human being does around a house.'
Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) Workshop
SF writers have thought about this since the 19th century.
Nanorobots Roam Your Bloodstream, Cleaning It
Too bad they won't have lasers, though...
Galini 3D Printed Sleeping Pod Tiny Houses
'The houses are prefabricated units...'
MIT Boffins Create Psychopath AI On Purpose
There's a lesson in this for neural net AI engineers everywhere.
Skin Electronics 3D Printed
'June's body is a tracery of lambent lines, like some arcane capillary circuitry...'
Artificial Sensory Neurons For Prosthetics, Robots
Great for humans and robots!
China Uses Artificial Intelligence To Grade Student Papers
Looks like the City Fathers are starting to take over China's education system.
Electronic Tongues Will Rule The Kitchen
'Install taste buds in the end of one tentacle...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories