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Could space billiards save the planet ?

Posted on Monday, 3 June, 2013 | Comment icon 14 comments | News tip by: Waspie_Dwarf

Image credit: NASA

Russian scientists have proposed a novel new way to protect the Earth from deadly asteroid collisions.

The technique would involve towing several small asteroids in to orbit around the Earth so that in the event that a larger asteroid is found to be on a collision course, one of the smaller ones could be lined up to collide with it - a veritable cosmic billiards table. The idea is not really all that far fetched given that NASA is planning on towing an asteroid in to orbit around the Earth so that astronauts can land on it.

"I was skeptical about it myself, until we actually tried to do computer modeling of the situation," said Russian scientist Natan Eismont. To line the smaller asteroid up with the incoming larger one, it would be necessary to launch an unmanned Proton rocket to land on it along with several tons of fuel. Igniting the fuel at the right time would then tweak the asteroid's orbit sufficiently to put it on a collision course with the approaching threat.

"The meteorite that blew up over Russiaís Urals in mid-February, leaving 1,500 injured, came as a striking reminder of how vulnerable we are on our small, blue planet."

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 Source: Ria Novosti

  Discuss: View comments (14)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #5 Posted by ancient astronaut on 3 June, 2013, 15:04
Just send Bruce Willis.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Dark_Grey on 3 June, 2013, 15:05
In billiards, isn't the idea to have your ball hit another ball, which hits another ball, which pockets another ball? If we have an asteroid in orbit that is hit by a bigger asteroid, wouldn't one or both hit the massive blue ball (heh) directly next to them?
Comment icon #7 Posted by Rhino666 on 3 June, 2013, 15:12
@Dark_Grey.Yep nail on the head. I was thinking the same but as snooker.
Comment icon #8 Posted by goodgodno on 3 June, 2013, 16:05
Hold up. NASA is towing an asteroid into our orbit?
Comment icon #9 Posted by pallidin on 3 June, 2013, 18:02
Hold up. NASA is towing an asteroid into our orbit? Hasn't been done yet, just proposed. And it would orbit our moon, not just the earth itself.
Comment icon #10 Posted by DieChecker on 4 June, 2013, 0:23
There are several asteroids that astronauts probably could land on that pass nearby resonably often... I think having a baseball in hand to knock away an incoming soccer ball, or bowling ball has a chance at working. It would work a lot better if it was not stationary, but had a high speed orbit. That would save a lot of fuel needed to send it out. I personnally think there are lots of ways to deal with asteroids. If it came down to having days before it hit, we couldn't do anything anyway.
Comment icon #11 Posted by stevemagegod on 4 June, 2013, 1:06
The program costs about $1 billion per Proton launch, and the equipment needed to maneuver an asteroid into position can be developed within 10 to 12 years, Eismont said. God Dam 10 to 12 years? Why does everything have to be such a huge time frame?
Comment icon #12 Posted by csspwns on 5 June, 2013, 5:00
God Dam 10 to 12 years? Why does everything have to be such a huge time frame? Because it's not simple and takes lots of planning.
Comment icon #13 Posted by Seeker79 on 18 June, 2013, 19:21
I have always thought that this idea was a clandestine weapon in the making. If someone had the capabilities to tow a sizable asteroid into orbit and attach rockets to it, and the right calculations to make it accurate to a target on earth, a government could essentially have a non radioactive weapon to destroy any city on earth, with complete deniability as it would be a 'natural' disaster. The could use it for tsunamis or a non radioactive nuclear equivalent. I would not be surprise if it has not already happened. What better way to cripple a country without starting a war.
Comment icon #14 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 19 June, 2013, 10:45
with complete deniability Yes because, despite the fact that the superpowers can detect a single rocket launch from anywhere on Earth (and have been able to for decades) it will be perfectly possible to launch a huge rocket unnoticed, on an interplanetary trajectory. Despite the fact that we have understood orbital mechanics since the time of Kepler no one will notice an asteroid that suddenly changes trajectory in defiance of the laws of physics. As a science fiction concept it is fun (as long as the emphasis is heavily on the fiction and not on the science). In the real world it would simply... [More]

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