MIT system predicts the best way to deflect an Earth-bound asteroid

Katie Ramirez
February 21, 2020

It is estimated that on April 2029, an icy block of space object, more prominent than the Eiffel Tower, will crash Earth at 30 kilometers/second.

It's not a matter of if a large asteroid hits Earth - it's when.

The subsequent asteroid that may get with reference to earth is named 2020 BL7. We could try to deflect an asteroid as it hurtled toward us, but that would require much more force.

These researchers applied this new method to Apophis and Bennu, near-Earth asteroids that are the target of OSIRIS-REx, an operational NASA mission that is attempting to return a sample of Bennu's surface to earth by 2023. They say the method could be used to design the optimal mission configuration and campaign to deflect a potentially hazardous near-Earth asteroid. I'm interested in preventing keyhole passage well before impact. Its like a preemptive strike, with less mess.”.

Paek's co-authors at MIT are Olivier de Weck, Jeffrey Hoffman, Richard Binzel, and David Miller. Since then no such big space rocks have approached earth, but space experts strongly believe that doomsday asteroid hits are not confined to the past, and it will happen in the future too. The use of nuclear weapons to mitigate asteroid impacts remains a controversial issue in the planetary defense community.

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The problem with the kinetic impactor solution is that "properties of the asteroid, such as its mass, momentum, trajectory, and surface composition must be known 'as precisely as possible'".

“Does it matter if the probability of success of a mission is 99.9 percent or only 90 percent?

Paek and his team modeled a code to detect the type of space object deflection task that would have the best result. The third consists of two halves: a scout and small impactor to potentially deflect the asteroid in the first phase, and then a second larger impactor to make completely sure the asteroid is no threat. Alternatively, we could nudge a space rock aside as it passed through a gravitational "keyhole".

For Apophis and Bennu, such things were measured as the distances between each asteroid and their respective gravitational keyhole, as well as the "safe harbor" region, the time when the asteroid would need to be deflected to avoid disaster. The exams confirmed that with 5 or extra years, one of the best course is to ship two scouts after which the projectile. Between two and five years out, you're most likely to succeed with the single scout followed by a projectile fired from Earth.

If the pass through the keyhole takes place in a year or less, the researchers determine that it would be too late to prepare a security measure with this plan.

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