Trump’s NASA to build an Asteroid Deflection System

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

The White House has announced plans to find a way to protect the Earth from dangerous Asteroids.

This Is NASA’s New Plan to Detect and Destroy Asteroids Before They Hit Earth

By Hanneke Weitering, Staff Writer | June 20, 2018 06:30pm ET

NASA has updated its plans to deflect potentially hazardous Earth-bound asteroids — and none of them involve Bruce Willis.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy released a new report today (June 20) titled the “National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan.” The 18-page document outlines the steps that NASA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will take over the next 10 years to both prevent dangerous asteroids from striking Earth and prepare the country for the potential consequences of such an event.

Officials with NASA, FEMA and the White House discussed the new asteroid-mitigation strategies in a teleconference with the media today. “An asteroid impact is one of the possible scenarios that we must be prepared for,” Leviticus Lewis, chief of FEMA’s National Response Coordination Branch, told reporters during the teleconference, adding that a catastrophic asteroid strike is “a low-probability but high-consequence event” for which “some degree of preparedness is necessary.” [Related: How Trump’s Space Force Would Help Protect Earth from Future Asteroid Threats]

“This plan is an outline not only to enhance the hunt for hazardous asteroids, but also to better predict their chances of being an impact threat well into the future and the potential effects that it could have on Earth,” NASA’s planetary defense officer, Lindley Johnson, said during the teleconference. Johnson added that the plan will help NASA “step up our efforts to demonstrate possible asteroid deflection and other mitigation techniques, and to better formalize across the U.S. government the processes and protocols for dissemination of the best information available so that timely decisions can be made.”

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Asteroids are low risk high impact events – the probability of serious impact occurring in anyone’s lifetime is low, even less the probability of actually being personally affected by an impact. But a big impact could destroy a city, or an entire region. A really big impact could destroy civilisation, maybe even wipe out all life on Earth.

I think its worth spending some government money on preparedness. As the Chelyabinsk meteor demonstrated, this threat can emerge suddenly, without warning. Even better detection systems without the deflection capability would give people in regions affected by incoming space debris a chance to find shelter.

The risk from meteors is not just the damage the meteor itself could do. In 2002, a meteor exploded over the Eastern Mediterranean with the force of a small atomic bomb. If the meteor had arrived a few hours earlier, and exploded over India / Pakistan, it could have been mistaken for a first strike and triggered a nuclear war. 2002 was a time of heightened tension between India and Pakistan.

A better detection system, some notice or warning of an incoming meteor, might reduce the risk of a horrible mistake.

Video of a meteor strike in Lapland in 2017

282 thoughts on “Trump’s NASA to build an Asteroid Deflection System

  1. About frackin’ time!

    They can use the GISS budget to do so.

    Green Meanies are rooting for the asteroid, to wipe out evil humanity as in the biblical flood. The rest of the biosphere will be much better off without us, even if we have incinerate the world to save it. Lacking foul humanity, the biosphere will come roaring back, better than ever, after the species cleansing impact.

    That said, it would have to be a honking big asteroid to wipe out all life on Earth. An estimated 10,000 asteroids are in the 10-km size class of the dino-destroying impactor.

      • It’s easy to deflect an asteroid, regardless of size. What’s hard is deflecting it enough to make a difference.
        Remember, deflection adds up over time. If you can detect an object that will hit the Earth years before it’s scheduled impact, a small nudge will be enough to change a direct hit into a near miss.

          • Ummm . . . didn’t Mexico cop it before – and it wiped out the then-dominant lifeform.
            So, if it means no more watermelon . . . .


          • That’s why you need to have enough telescopes to accurately track those things. If it’s not going to hit, there isn’t any need to do anything.

    • We absolutely should do this. It’s the precautionary principle – just like stopping climate change.


      • Not really. Meteor impacts are guaranteed and have demonstrable negative effects from sonic booms up to global extinctions, and it is known how they could be prevented. Climate change is also a guarantee, but there is no way to stop it and the effects are minor compared to a catastrophic event such as a large meteor.

        In other words, it’s a much better use of time and effort to protect a flock of sheep from wolves that it is to protect them from boogie men.

        • The last meteor to cause global extinction was 66 million years ago, so by the law of averages we must be due another one any day now. Right?

          • The law of averages doesn’t work with events that are random in nature.
            The fact that one has hit is proof that another can as well. Tomorrow is just as likely as some day 10,000 years in the future.

            If the meteor/comet that hit Russia a bit over 100 years ago had come down over a populated area, 100’s of thousands could have been killed.

            The meteor that hit Russia a couple of years injured hundreds.

          • Better is Pareto’s Power Distribution, pointless things – statements – happen all the time, while really really bad things – for dinosaurs – happen only once. Otherwise it’s 80/20.

    • Really? Mining asteroids would be an excellent way to do this! OHHHH!!! I get it! You are a flatearther who believes we should all just huddle in the mud and die. Got it.

      • Exactly how is mining an asteroid hurtling toward the Earth supposed to help? Any mining equipment sent to that asteroid would add to the mass impacting the earth. Have you thought about what percent of the total tonnage of an asteroid could be removed during the few days between detection of a city busting impactor and the impact?

        Also, I don’t think a flatearther would even believe in orbital mechanics. He wouldn’t believe a “shooting star” could damage the Earth.

        I don’t believe you applied any logic whatsoever to your post.


        • How about an electro rail gun ejection waste mass from mining to alter the flight path of the asteroid?

          • Who said anything about just doing it once?
            Over the course of a year, heaving a 1Kg mass once a second would create a noticeable change of directin/velocity on even a 10Km asteroid. If you start several years before impact, the amount of deflection needed is even smaller.

          • I don’t see how we would have the time to deflect a large asteroid from a trajectory that would impact Earth, by using electro rail gun ejection. Any such asteroid in an orbit with low enough eccentricity to give us more than a year to respond would already be detected by now.
            Any asteroid that could come upon us by surprise would by necessity be in a highly eccentric orbit that would not give sufficient time to do anything other than hit it with nukes.


          • And as is the case for EVs, all one has to do is locate a wall outlet on said asteroid and, poof!, there is all the electricity needed to power that “electro rail gun” with its necessary gigawatt-hour power draw.


          • Ever heard of nuclear reactors? They have been putting them on space probes for decades.

            PS: Rail guns don’t need giga-watt type power. A few hundred watts with a capacitor to store up the charge would be sufficient.

          • There is not one nuclear reactor in space, nor ever launched. RTG are not reactors. As on earth, cooling a reactor to Carnot efficiency is difficult in space.

          • A few hundred watts powering a rail gun might . . . just might . . . be able to launch 10 milligrams every minute to escape velocity from a 10 km size asteroid, taking into account the electrical-to-kinetic energy conversion efficiencies of existing rail gun technology, which are in the range of 20-40% (ref: ).

        • Why is there always this talk of mining ?, it might just be a chunk of rock, not made of gold/diamonds/oil or anything more easily mined here, sheesh.

          • I have often thought that too the costs of whatever is mined and brought back to earth would be astronomical.

          • Why bring it back to Earth? Park it in orbit somewhere for use later. You know, to avoid having to lift it into orbit later.

          • Assume it is a kilometer or so in diameter, and thus really does represent a potential for a Earth-wide catastrophe upon impact.

            The exercise for the study is to calculate the energy needed to change the velocity vector, in the heliocentric frame, from the highly elliptical orbit (this asteroid is a “surprise”, because it hasn’t been previously cataloged by radar, right?) to a nearly circular one at 1 AU, taking into account the relative small additional delta-V need for it to be captured in Earth’s gravity well.

            The student will be flabbergasted at the amount of impulse and total energy needed to redirect the mass of said asteroid into this new orbit.

            For extra credit, propose how Earth plan’s to transfer the mass of material/energy/propellant needed to impose this delta-V on this distant object, especially considering the need to reverse the orbital mechanics (that is, leave Earth orbit and obtain an orbital state vector where a soft landing on said asteroid can be made).

          • Depends on the time available for the work to be done. A small impulse over sufficient time could move the mountainous (or hilly) asteroid.

          • Even large delta v’s can be acheived by a small engine firing continously over a long period of time.
            You don’t need to take all the mass with you. A rail-gun or ion engine can use the mass of the rock for this.

          • You wouldn’t need to change a highly elliptical orbit into a circular one. You just would need to change it into a highly elliptical orbit which would miss earth.

          • Would not be brought down to surface, the whole point is use of these resources in space. Or do you think humans will get off this planet by lifting all needed resources for construction in orbit and beyond from the surface?

          • Rare earth minerals are probably worth the effort. Others such as iron wouldn’t be worth it to bring back to earth, however bring them back to earth orbit and use them there. That’s very valuable.
            It costs hundreds of dollars to lift every pound into orbit. With that as a standard, an iron asteroid weighing 1 million pounds is almost priceless.

          • Strangely enough what they will be looking for more than anything else will be…water (ice).
            It is rocket fuel.
            That big tank of the Space Shuttle was full of hydrogen and oxygen.

          • Some of the asteroids are relatively large and contain platinum, gold, nickel, mercury, rare earth metals, uranium. What’s the current selling price for a pound of platinum? Suppose a large asteroid in orbit between Mars and Jupiter has 200,000 pounds of platinum and 400,000 pounds of gold and you could melt that asteroid down in space using cheap solar generated electricity and then centrifuge the valuable metals out of the melt liquid? And suppose you then load the extracted metals into empty steel containers and using an electric rail gun send them on a slow trajectory back to low earth orbit where you begin unloading? Gold and platinum could become common and cheap. I know its science fiction fantasy right now. But maybe someday.

        • Not too quick, are you? Mining in the Asteroid Belt will require that we be IN the Asteroid Belt, move between the Asteroid Belt and Earth’s orbit, transport material in massive amount back and forth AND thoroughly track objects moving freely through the surrounding regions. Go ahead, though, huddle in the mud and pretend the Sun circles the Earth and nothing bad can ever be stopped from occurring. That always works.

          • I thought that was what you meant by your original post. In other words, once we develop the technology to mine asteriods, we will also be in a better position to deflect killer asteriods, if they come along

            We certainly are not in a position to deflect any asteriods at the present time with current technology.

            Asteriod mining will develop the technology we need, and there is a lot of commercial interest in mining asteriods. Plans are being made.

            The first task for NASA is to detect all the asteriods of interest. We need more, and bigger telescopes.

          • We should already be established in the region out to Lunar orbit and the Lagrange points and Lunar surface. Instead we are still letting leftist morons and tribal savages dictate the course of human development, and both of these groups pray fervently for apocalyptic disaster.

    • Well, perhaps a suitably large gravity tractor could deflect a smallish asteroid/comet as long as we had enough time…enough for it to do a few orbits around the Sun with tractor at its side to deflect it just enough to miss the “keyhole” that would otherwise have it impact us.

      Probably best to spend most money on detection with some reserved for tractor designs.

      Space probes to asteroid Bennu and the current Japanese mission are all helpful in learning how to navigate around these bodies with weird gravitational environments.

    • Salvatore, I agree that efforts to deflect a 10 kilometer asteroid would probably be futile. However, Felix is on to something – diversion of misspent funds. If Warmists can be convinced an asteroid deflection system is a worthy cause, perhaps money now spent subsidizing wind turbines and solar power systems can be diverted into a deflection system. Even if an asteroid deflection system is an equal waste of money, at least that money won’t be spent messing up the landscape.


      • I much rather use the money the government would steal from us to enjoy life rather than pissing it away on keeping ne’re do wells busy.

      • Even 10Km and larger asteroids can be deflected, provided they are spotted early enough. A small nudge, multiplied over 5 or 10 years can result in a huge difference.

      • Even 10km asteroids can be deflected if they are spotted early enough.
        Change the velocity of an asteroid by 1 millimeter per second, and over 10 years, the change in position is over 31,000 km.

        • Mark, some pretty big “IFS”. As Felix says, Lead time is life. All of these things you mention are true, but all fall into what I call “Bell-the-cat-solutions”.
          Of course deflecting the asteroid is the answer….but how will this be accomplished?

          The first issue is detection range. We don’t’ have any where near enough without relying on dumb luck. Dark asteroids emerging out of the dark from unknown quadrants cannot be seen until they are too close to act upon.
          More money for detection and a horde of watchers?

          Secondly we have no knowledge as to the construction or disposition of the mass of said asteroids so trying to move them will require some study as to how to do this without simply failing or actually making the trajectory far worse.
          Simply send a missile to blast at these things could fail miserably (and probably will).
          Any other methods of emplacing prolusion is even more problematic.

          Thirdly, if and when we detect these things…far enough away… it will take quite some time to send an interceptor to even get near these. Quick response usually means direct trajectories and the requires exorbitant amounts of propellant to fly less than optimal flight paths. We don’t have rockets big enough to accomplish this…yet.

          I am reminded of water-balloon fights as a child. One quickly learned that attempting to swat away an incoming balloon merely soaked you with the contents of the balloon as it ruptures upon contact this your arm. The trajectory of the water continues on its path. Physics is a cruel master.

          • Life is built on “ifs”. If we only did those things with 100% chance of success, we would end up doing nothing.

            Yes dark asteroids are harder spot, but they can be spotted. You are assuming that the first time we see such a dark asteroid is just before it hits the earth.
            That’s unlikely to be true. It’s much more likely we will spot it during a near pass. During which time we can get a good rid on it’s orbit in order to determine whether it will be a problem on it’s next few passes, and when those passes will be.

            You don’t need to know the composition to use a gravity tug.
            Also as long as you aren’t pulling or pushing too hard, the composition does not matter much. There are many other options, ion engines. EM cannons placed on the surface and throwing chunks carved from the asteroid itself.

            Yes, it does take time to get to an asteroid and match orbits. That’s why need to be looking for them now, so that we have that time.

            Blowing them up with nuclear is one option, but only one. There are dozens of others.

            As to your point regarding water balloons. Which gets you more wet. Allowing the balloon to go ahead and hit you? Or swatting it and knocking some of the water onto a course that misses you?

            NASA and other space agencies have been sending probes to both asteroids and comets in recent years precisely to help us figure out how they are made.
            So the claim that we don’t know how they are put together is already being worked on.

          • You absolutely need to know the mass distribution and structural integrity before you attempt to move it.
            Without knowing where the CG is you will simply make it tumble. How will you know how hard you can apply load to it. As it tumbles you had better hope it doesn’t begin to fly apart. Tumbling rocks are very difficult to even approach.

            Try this out at sea with an unknown floating mass and you will understand just how difficult this sort of thing really is in only 2 dimensions.

            BTW just where exactly do you plan on getting a Gravity Tug or Tractor Beam? These things aren’t anywhere beyond science fiction at the moment. For good reason. If the asteroid has more mass than your spaceship, which object is going to move more than the other?

            Sure just divert the dilithium crystal power array, to the deflector shield and reverse the polarity.

            Designing spacecraft is my job.

          • CG can be calculated once the probe gets there.
            If the push is small enough, the asteroids own gravity will hold it together.
            As I stated before, neither of these is a consideration if you use a gravity tug.

            Gravity is science fiction? I never knew that.
            If you had studied this subject as much as you claim, you would be aware that a gravity tug is just a mass that exerts a gravitational pull on an object, and then uses a rocket to keep it ahead of the object it is pulling.

          • We could move all detected earth-crossing asteroids onto a collision course with Venus or the sun.

    • Really, Salvatore Del Prete? You think that, “galactic cosmic rays… create muons… which are then able to penetrate the earth surface and excite calderas of silicon rich volcanos…” and trigger volcanic eruptions. But you don’t think there’s any hope for mankind to deflect a dangerously large asteroid on a collision course with Earth?

    • It is, but I would build a Death Star something visual from Earth so taxpayers see what their dollars are used for. It is just a bit bigger than an F 35 so where is the problem.

      • I have just the thing for the Death Star: A spherical-shaped Solar Power Satellite (SPS).

        A spherical SPS one mile in diameter could be inflated in orbit using about 40 pounds of helium. The outside would be covered with flexible solar cells, half of which would always be illuminated by the sun.

        It doesn’t have to be a spherical SPS, of course, that’s just my favorite design because of its simplicity.

        A large SPS in orbit could be used to power industry in the Earth/Moon system and could be switched to planetary defense if necessary by powering lasers that would add energy to an approaching asteriod as a means of deflecting the asteriod. The laser could reach out long distances to interact with asteriods so it wouldn’t be necessary to match orbits with the asteriod in order to move it.

        A laser in space could also be used to push small space probes to all points in the solar system at great speed.

        I think all these things will come to pass in due course. That’s where we are headed.

        • For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. At the same time the laser is pushing an asteroid or space probe, it is also pushing on your satellite. You are going to either need another laser of equal power pushing in the opposite direction, or you are going to need chemical rockets to keep your SPS in position.

          If detected early enough, there may well be several close passes by the earth before it finally impacts. This would give your laser several opportunities to kick the satellite creating a larger, cumulative effect.

    • Detecting asteroids isn’t all that hard, you just have to look for them.
      Deflecting asteroids is tougher, but there are many proposals that could work.

      • Much evidence to the contrary.
        Actually it is quite difficult. If it were so easy and prevalent, then why are we often surprised by near misses.
        We rely on reflected light as these are not emitters.
        Albedos are unknown.
        Trajectories are unknown.
        Its like driving at night and trying to spot the bug that will hit your windshield while the bug is still miles away.

        • You seem to be taking the position that unless we can find and deflect 100% of potential impactors, we shouldn’t even bother?

          The fact that we have surprise near misses is simply the result of the fact that we have only been seriously looking for these things for a short time. How long will it take to find all of them? I don’t know. I do know that if don’t look we will never find them.

          • There are several already and one planned to be sent to L2 as soon as we can finish it (James West Space Telescope is actually one of my projects) but unfortunately we aren’t looking for asteroids with them.

          • Thanks.

            I had specialized instruments in mind, maybe capable of active search, like radar, since asteroids tend not to reflect much sunlight.

            Maybe combined with space-based deflection or destruction vehicles.

  2. As long as this doesn’t “deflect” them from their “Muslim Outreach” duties…

  3. Is this the next ploy to get funding now their climate Change budget has been cut?
    Will it be the whole world or just the “important” bits.
    Will China or Russia not get on board?
    Or other countries,could be the next big thing.
    After climate change.

  4. it would work, if a launch could be done so the interception was far enough out that a nuke could change the asteroid’s trajectory enough to generate a miss.

          • Alastair,

            Comets nearing Earth are much rarer and not composed primarily of metals, as are the deadliest asteroids.

            Also, few if any of them are surprises. Generally, they’re detected in their orbits while nearing the sun, and their paths worked out.

            There are long and short period comets, of course. But a dirty iceball is a lot less dangerous than a comparable hunk of iron, even if moving more slowly.

        • Only a small fraction of potential impacters fall in that category.
          Are you saying that unless we can catch all of them, we shouldn’t even try?

  5. A 10km diameter iron asteroid would have a mass of 4.1 x 10^15 kg, or about 4 trillion metric tons. ((5.24×10^11 m^3) x (7.87 x 10^3 kg/m^3))

    To deflect such an asteroid sufficiently to have it avoid impact with earth, it must either be speeded up or slowed down by some force that we apply to it. Is it conceivable that we can deliver a sufficient force to do that, even if we could detect the asteroid long before its arrival and strike it when it is very far from earth?

    How would we achieve that? Could we even succeed at deflecting much smaller asteroids?

    • Multistage thermonuclear devices could both push and split it. Each stage roughly increases yield by an order of magnitude. Start with a 100 KT boosted fission trigger, then a fusion second stage, with DU jacket, followed by third and fourth fusion stages. With good design, might yield 100 megatons.

      • Let’s accept even the possibility that one day in the distant future we could maintain a fleet of such devices in orbit at various points around the asteroid belt so that we could minimize the distance to the target. How do we get one to the asteroid, positioned appropriately, and detonated before it is too late? Somebody has to help me do the math. How much do we need to slow or speed the asteroid to avoid having it strike the earth? How much energy do we need to change the speed of an object that has a 4 trillion ton mass and is going 25 km/s?

        It seems inconceivable that anything we puny humans could come up with would be more effective than a gnat trying to deflect an ocean liner.

        • The defense force wouldn’t be deployed close to the asteroid belt, but between Earth and Mars.

          Given interception far enough out, a slight nudge off an Earth-aimed trajectory would make it miss.

          But if that failed, then the next defense level would be trying to blast it apart. Nuclear explosives are powerful. It might take repeated detonations to work through ten klicks of iron, but it’s not impossible.

          I’ve considered using the mass of many smaller asteroids with little rocket charges to shepherd big potential Earth-crossers out of their threatening orbits, as a prophylactic measure, associate with colonizing the Belt, which is in many ways more promising than Mars.

          Humans are resourceful. If we put our minds to it, IMO, the problem is solvable. A lot is riding on it.

          We might not suffer another K/T scale hit for 30 million more years, but even a one km asteroid impact would be a very bad day.

      • The Tzar Bomba in Russia was originally designed as a three stage device, the third stage was eventually dropped for fears of massive radioactive fallout risk world-wide. It yielded ~56 mega-tonnes, more than all the bombs and bullets used in the entire second world war put together.

        Even if it did yield ~100+ mega-tonnes, I don’t see it would inflict enough damage to break it up enough to save this rock.

        • Sakharov dialled that Bomb down to 30% in case the ionosphere were vaporized. He said there is no upper limit to his design.

          • I understood it was yield limited because whoever didn’t want the windows blown out of the Kremlin when the thing detonated over Washington.

            Come on lads, cut the Big Willyism, the Star Trek crap and the (faux) concern for everyone else. Its not working.
            Ask your ex, if she’s still even speaking to you

            1. Its a nice diversionary tactic to get NASA off the Climate Change Crap
            2. Its also a tacit admission that there are too many people on this planet.

      • Nuclear explosions in space actually present very little pressure force . . . it’s mostly just radiation energy (EM and particles) because there is no surrounding “atmosphere” to heat up and to thereby create the powerful pressure waves that are so destructive as seen in films of nuclear explosions on Earth’s surface. Since the surface of an asteroid in essentially in a hard vacuum environment, the best one can hope for is enough concentrated absorption of the released nuclear radiation to VOLATILIZE (not just melt) a significant amount of asteroid mass such that the escaping vapors create a significant thrust force against the asteroid surface.

        This is not guaranteed to work . . . if the average thrust vector of this mass boiloff does not pass exactly through the center-of-mass of the asteroid, most of the created impulse (thrust over time) will just go into spinning the asteroid and not causing translation motion (e.g., orbital delta-V), which is what is needed.

    • Fly up there, land on the asteroid, simultaneously drill two redundant deep holes, put large nuclear explosive devices into the holes, set the timers, fly away and watch as the asteroid splits and misses the earth.

      If things don’t go as planned then someone will have to stay behind to manually set the explosive charges.

      Training and equipping the crew will only take a few weeks, so the most important thing is detection.

      • IMO, the crew should already be trained and equipped. The Earth Defense arm of the US Space Force.

        But might not need humans. One nuclear demolition charge to make a hole, followed by another to blow the asteroid apart, both delivered robotically.

        Or a super-Saturn V type rocket to steer it away, given enough warning.

      • And this is the best that you c – that the-the government, the U.S. government- can come up with? I mean, you-you’re NASA for cryin’ out loud, you put a man on the moon, you’re geniuses! You-you’re the guys that think this shit up! I’m sure you got a team of men sitting around somewhere right now just thinking shit up and somebody backing them up!

      • It’s easier to make a movie about this to deflect everybody’s fears. Maybe we can sign up some old actors like bruce Willis.

        • Along with Billy Bob Thornton, Steve Buscemi, David Keith and Michael Clarke Duncan. Then you could also throw in Liv Tyler and Ben Afflack. Might be a pretty good movie.

        • >>
          Just detonate near . . . .

          I doubt trying to scare an asteroid will make it change direction. They don’t scare easily.


          • A nearby explosion would evaporate material from the surface of the asteroid. The jetting of this evaporated material would cause the asteroid to change course.

            Such an effect has already been observed on comets as gasses evaporated by the sun have been observed modifying the comets orbit.

          • >>
            A nearby explosion would evaporate material from the surface of the asteroid.

            At least you’re not trying to push the nonsense of shock-waves traveling through the vacuum of space.


      • We currently don’t have anywhere on Earth a rocket vehicle system even remotely capable of flying even one human to a orbital velocity vector that would match that of an incoming asteroid, no matter when it is detected.

        Nor are there any plans to develop such a space vehicle capability in the future.

          • Oh, I see . . . it’s all going to be done robotically, right?

            And we can’t even yet design a software system and sensors that enable autonomous automobile driving with any amount of reliability!

          • Driving a car is orders of magnitude more difficult.
            In case you hadn’t noticed, we’ve been sending robotic space craft to the outer solar system since the 70’s. We’ve had robotic rovers exploring Mars for decades.

          • Actually, none of what you mentioned involved truly autonomous robots. Each one relied on a specific sequence of radio commands from Earth telling them specifically what to do (e.g., drive 100 feet at a Martian heading of 213 degrees and wait for the next command; e.g., at mission time 732:02:34:58.052, turn on the high resolution camera, set the aperture at f 5.6, and scan along the spacecraft yaw axis at a rate of 0.126 degrees per second; e.g., at mission time 401:18:03.17.562, execute pre-programmed computer load A01GH5YT01768 to initiate soft landing sequence).

            One-way radio communication delay from Earth to Mars ranges from 4 to 24 minutes depending on orbital alignments. The one-way RF delay to the asteroid belt will be around twice as long, on average (i.e., 30 minutes or more).

    • “How would we achieve that? “
      Very good question. Momentum is conserved. Even delivering huge energy from H-bombs can’t change that. The best you can do is turn a bullet into buckshot. You can’t deliver a momentum change.

      • Don’t forget Newton’s third law allows us to change the momentum of one object by transferring some momentum to another object. My argument is not that you can’t deliver a momentum change, but that we can’t hope to come up with a mechanism to eject enough mass at a high enough velocity to make any significant difference to the mass and momentum of a large asteroid.

        The rail gun idea may be one option, if we have centuries to work on it before the projected impact, and can somehow use solar power so that we don’t need to deliver the energy source from earth. If we need to deflect in one orbit or less, I say it’s absolutely impossible even for some relatively small asteroids. And that’s ignoring the practically impossible logistics.

        • It’s force over time.

          Should the threatening asteroid be intercepted at the edge of the Belt, then we have a lot of distance and time in which to exert the force, which could be quite large.

        • ” if we have centuries to work on it ”
          Too late, enter Apophis in 2036. Good bye Earth, it was nice while it lasted.

        • Rich,
          ” My argument is not that you can’t deliver a momentum change, but that we can’t hope to come up with a mechanism to eject enough mass at a high enough velocity to make any significant difference to the mass and momentum of a large asteroid.”
          That’s my argument too, although I don’t see the distinction in that sentence. Take the kinetic impactor. The momentum that is supposed to divert the asteroid comes from the mass of fuel gases ejected by the spacecraft. That isn’t much mass, even if the velocity can be made large.

          • In nuclear explosions, mass is converted to energy at a high rate.

            We can make a nuclear explosive as large as it needs to be.

          • “In nuclear explosions, mass is converted to energy at a high rate”
            Not much mass. The 50 Megaton Tsar Bomba chewed up 2.33 kg mass. But the key issue is momentum.

          • Nick,

            Apparently nuclear physics aren’t taught in the Land of Oz.

            The Tsar Bomba turned mere kilograms of fissile and fusionable material into 50 megatons of TNT-equivalent energy.

            What part of E=mc^2 don’t you get?

          • “What part of E=mc^2 don’t you get?”
            I get all of it. One kg TNT releases 4.2 MJ. So 50 megatons releases 210 PJ. Then
            210*10^15/(3*10^8)^2 = 2.33 kg.
            We learnt that at school.

            210 PJ is a lot of energy. But it is momentum that counts here. We learnt about that at school too.

            ps Tsar Bomba weighed 27 tons. Now if you could get that up to a pretty high speed, it might have an effect.

          • Technology of Tsar Bomba was primitive. We could get much greater explosive power now in a much smaller package.

        • You gotta think in 3D.

          Assuming there is time, it would be possible to target a smaller asteroid and change its course to impact the Big One. The resulting vector would take it away from coincidence with the Earth. It could be made to go faster, slower, up or down – doesn’t matter. All it would take is an impact.

          Redirecting a smaller asteroid would take far less energy, and deliver far more momentum than anything “weapon”.

          In the same manner, the atmosphere of Mars couple be engineered with a few dozen icy comets.

        • Rich Davis (rail gun),

          To get away from the movies and into literature …

          We need to start sending our criminals to the moon as soon as possible. Over time, ingenuity and creativeness will win out and they will eventually figure out how to launch very large rocks, with limited energy input, on very specific trajectories.

          Multiple moon based slow velocity rail guns; slingshot with earth gravity; and buck shot the shit out of the incoming menace.

          But first we need a penal colony on the moon to get things going … NO ROBOTS ….

      • >>
        Momentum is conserved. Even delivering huge energy from H-bombs can’t change that. The best you can do is turn a bullet into buckshot. You can’t deliver a momentum change.

        Again, physical laws have requirements that must be met before you can apply them. The law of conservation of momentum only applies to closed systems–that is, systems where no mass is gained or lost and no external forces act on it. Apply an external force and you can forget about momentum conservation–you’re changing the total momentum of the system in that case.


      • I’ve read that the biggest kick is vaporized rock flying off of the asteroid. Gives it a substantial momentum change.

        • Radiation energy transfer is proportional to the fourth root. The sun can’t even vaporize rock.

          • So you use something with a higher energy density. Something like a laser, or perhaps a nuclear explosion.

          • Momentum is the product of mass and velocity. Back to school with ya, ‘it’ can be cured.

      • Late to the fray…but, how plausible is it that an asteroid as anywhere near the density of our earth? Seriously, it’s probably a very loose collection of ice and other elements, and could probably be pounded into relatively small chunks reasonably easily with enough nukes.

        Sure momentum is conserved…amongst a billion little fragments and huge swaths of sublimated gas.

        There. Problem solved. Can we get back to NASA’s main mission, climate change, now? (Joking)


        • The “loose collection of ice and other elements” more properly describes the composition of comets. From samples of meteorites that have been recovered on Earth and attributed to origination in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, scientists are fairly certain that asteroids have compositions between that of solid nickel-iron and that of a “stoney” agglomeration.

      • Nick, it is true that we could not “deliver” any significant momentum change to a large asteroid, but we could nevertheless CAUSE a momentum change . . . and we don’t even have to send anything material to the asteroid to do it!

        Imagine high power lasers on the Moon (most practical would be for them to be nuclear-powered, FELs) that had sufficient pointing accuracy to deliver beam flux intensity onto the target asteroid sufficient to vaporize its surface. Gases escaping to space from such vaporization would create a reaction force against the asteroid’s mass. In turn, that force could, over sufficient time, cause enough of an orbital velocity change to cause the asteroid to miss impacting Earth.

        Note that it doesn’t matter if the asteroid is rotating (or starts rotating) as long as the surface continues to be vaporized. A lateral thrust is not required, since a thrust opposite to velocity vector would also do the job just as well, and is far easier to effect . . . most people wrongly assume that orbital “deflection” sufficient to cause an asteroid-on-path-to-hit-Earth to miss Earth must require a lateral (“sideways”) push.

        • Gordon.
          ” Gases escaping to space from such vaporization would create a reaction force”
          How? There might be some mass loss but what would cause it to accelerate? That is what is needed to provide a reaction force.

          You can’t change, with lasers and H-bombs, the total linear momentum. The only thing you can do is to split it, so some substantial mass acquires a different velocity, changing the momentum of the remainder (but not the total). Hopefully, though the centre of momentum still hits the earth, the particles don’t.

          • >>
            You can’t change . . . .

            “Can’t” is the wrong word. “Unlikely” would be more correct. The revised second law of motion, F=dp/dt, clearly states that force is a change in momentum (WRT time). Correctly apply a force and you can change momentum.


          • The thermal energy of the vaporized atoms/molecules of the surface material creates an effective gas pressure right at the molten surface (each vaporized atom/molecule is traveling in a thermally-excited random direction). Over the hemisphere away from the surface, this gas pressure of escaping atoms/molecules is converted into the kinetic energy of the atoms/molecules as they move into the far-field of space vacuum. Over the hemisphere facing the asteroid surface, the rest of the vaporized atoms/molecules have impacted the molten surface one or more times before escaping directly to space or colliding with another particle. It is this hemisphere’s atom/molecule collisions with the (molten) asteroid surface that creates the thrust force. Basically, Newton’s third law.

            BTW, check out “sublimating rocket thruster” for examples of how such a physical process has actually been employed in space.

      • No, check your math: 0.001 m/s * 10 yr * 365.25 day/yr * 24 hr/day * 3600 s/hr = 315,576 m = 316 km. You are off by two orders of magnitude.

        Earth’s diameter is about 12,749 km.

  6. ya need to billions to prevent a possible mistake that might cause a nuclear war …

    • How could this cause a nuclear war?
      We send rockets into space now without triggering a war.
      And what is the billions being spend on, that prevents this war?

        • Why don’t you follow your own advise and read the article. This time with the intention of actually understanding it.

          The point made in the article was that had the asteroid hit near Pakistan/India, the explosion might have been mistaken for a first strike, causing both sides to retaliate with nuclear weapons.

    • A large asteroid has the potential to destroy life as we know it, YOUR “Global Warming” hysteria does not !… D’OH !!

    • Really Mosher ?,
      Ya think nobody’s gonna wait a minute or two for confirmation, let alone set the coordinates for the counter strike.

      • read the post…

        “If the meteor had arrived a few hours earlier, and exploded over India / Pakistan, it could have been mistaken for a first strike and triggered a nuclear war. 2002 was a time of heightened tension between India and Pakistan.”

        great risk analysis.
        you clowns swallowed that or dont know how to read.

        • Why don’t you list why you believe the statement to be in error?

          Or did you just forget your fiber again?

        • guaranteed, great risk analysis

          analysis, great risk guaranteed (otherwise you won’t come back next year).

  7. Something in their realm of expertise. I’m skeptical (double entendre?) something could be done to divert an asteroid large enough to do significant damage but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t explore the possibilities. The video of the asteroid in Russia is a study in surreal tranquility before the asteroid appears.

    • Given time enough, landing a few ion thrusters on the rock and letting them push for a year or two might do the trick. Low thrust, but for a very long time. Specific impulse of the experimental HiPEP engine is 6,000 – 9,000 sec. The Saturn V first stage engine has a specific impulse of 263 sec. Just one option.

          • According to Wikipedia, “Ion thrusters in operational use have an input power need of 1–7 kW, exhaust velocity 20–50 km/s, thrust 25–250 millinewtons and efficiency 65–80% though experimental versions have achieved 100kW, 5N.” (see )

            Let’s go with the 100 kW/5N thrust figure. Previously, Rich Davis calculated a 10 km diameter iron asteroid would have a mass of 4*10^15 kg, but let’s be optimistic and assume we’re dealing with a stony-type asteroid with half this mass. Let’s further assume that we only need to divert the orbital path by one-half Earth’s radius, or about 3*10^6 m, and we have 5 years to accomplish this.

            To accomplish this at an assumed continuous thrust along a specific heliocentric vector, the acceleration would need to be 2.4*10^(-10) m/s/s. Given the asteroid’s assumed mass, this would equate to a thrust level of about 480,000 N.

            Therefore, to provide this thrust using today’s ion thruster technology would require about 9,600 MW of electrical power, or the full output capacity of about 7 modern large nuclear reactor power plants.

            So, you see, there are NO feasible options for ion thrusters to do what you propose, based on science and not on imagination.

          • If you’re going to use a long-term force from something like an ion thruster, you’ll need a stable platform for the thruster to act on. That means you’ll need to stop the asteroid’s rotation too. That, by itself, would be quite a feat.


          • As an alternative, require that whatever rockets might be practical for such use (and I don’t see any on the horizon) be steerable and be commandable on-off so that a constant heliocentric thrust vector can be maintained even with a rotating asteroid.

  8. Being able to deflect and asteroid or landing a man on Mars and returning him to earth???? What odds are people giving of either one becoming reality?

    • Deflecting an Earth-crossing asteroid is child’s play compared to a two-way manned mission to Mars. We’ve already intercepted asteroids.

      Big asteroids are another matter. In that case, destruction is called for rather than mere deflection. Even a kilometer-wide asteroid might present problems.

      But keeping even a 400-meter asteroid from striking Earth is IMO well worth the cost. Odds are it won’t hit a populated area, but it could still wreak havoc via a tsunami or the effects of impacting land.

    • Given you didn’t specify a time frame, 100%. Both of these will become feasible. It might take a hundred years, but we’ll do it.

  9. “Trump’s NASA to build an Asteroid Deflection System”
    This is hype. The actual report doesn’t say anything like that. It is a report from the National Science and Technology Council, not NASA. And it is pretty airy talk. It lists five goals:
    Goal 1: Enhance NEO Detection, Tracking, and Characterization Capabilities
    Goal 2: Improve NEO Modeling, Prediction, and Information Integration
    Goal 3: Develop Technologies for NEO Deflection and Disruption Missions
    Goal 4: Increase International Cooperation on NEO Preparation
    Goal 5: Strengthen and Routinely Exercise NEO Impact Emergency Procedures and Action

    Mostly they say we’ll look out better, and worry a bit. Goal 3 says they will try to develop technologies to deflect asteroids. I suppose they might then try to build a system, but they aren’t anywhere near that yet. The report itself is SF arm-waving:

    “3.4 Identify, assess the readiness of, estimate in the costs of, and propose development paths for key technologies required by NEO impact prevention concepts.
    This assessment should include the most mature in-space concepts—kinetic impactors, nuclear devices, and gravity tractors for deflection, and nuclear devices for disruption—as well as less mature NEO impact prevention methods.”

    What could be “less mature”? I can just imagine the mockery here if the previous admin had issued such a report.

  10. Maybe Trump could build a wall to stop it. Or separate all the little asteroids. Then put them back together and tell everyone what a great guy he is.

    • Apparently you’re unaware that Obama separated adults from their kids for eight years.

      The photos of “kids in cages” were from 2014.

      It’s the law. Adult illegal border crossers go into detention. It was not considered inhumane to put kids in jail with their criminal parents until the Democrats and their running dog media decided they could make political hay out of the Trump Administration’s enforcing the law, as Obama and Bush had done.

      Citizens who go to jail as criminal suspects are also separated from their families.

      • Felix is a bit rough on history I think. If the others were so guilty of this, why did we have a united from from past dem and rep presidents slamming the practice? Simple answer….. Because Trump took it to a new level.

        • It is necessary to make the choice to violate US sovereignty hurt. A lot. That way, people may find other options to pursue.

        • You’re rough on history.

          The reason the media made a big deal of the policy, required by US law, under Trump but not under Obama is because they wanted to hurt Trump but not Obama. Should be obvious.

          I repeat. The pictures of kids in cages were taken under Obama, not Trump.

          US law requires illegal immigrants to be detained. So the choice is either put the kids in jail with their parents, or separate them. Under Obama, it was thought more humane to separate them, as kids are when their citizen parents go to jail.

          The whole thing was rigged by the media, ie the propaganda organ of the Left wing of the Democrat Party.

          But it’s liable to blow up in the faces of the Downstream Media, when kids are in jail with their criminal parents, who illegally invaded the US.

          • “The whole thing was rigged by the media, ie the propaganda organ of the Left wing of the Democrat Party.” How do you explain Bush criticizing this move then?

          • Easy. He also caged the kids of illegal immigrants. The Bush family are the sworn enemies of Trump. They are the ultimate Swamp Creatures and blatant hypocrites.

            Bush wanted open borders so as to provide cheap labor to his campaign contributors. Obama wanted open borders so as to change the American electorate from free citizens to obedient sheep.

            But the law in 2001 and 2009 was as now. Captured illegal immigrants were required to be detained. Just as with citizens sent to jail, their kids were separated from them, so that children need not be incarcerated for the crimes of their parents.

          • “Bush wanted open borders so as to provide cheap labor to his campaign contributors.” You mean like Trump has done?

          • Now the troll is contradicting himself. Less than 4 hours, that’s a record, even for him.

          • “But the law in 2001 and 2009 was as now. Captured illegal immigrants were required to be detained. ” So you are saying previous administrations were as tough as Trump…. I don’t think so.

          • Not in the numbers or with the intent. Trump has used the removal of kids from their parents as a tool to deter others. That is the problem. Kids should be sacred, not used as a political footballs to get what a politician wants. That’s just sick.

          • I wrote a little blurb on Usenet back in about 2004 telling ole G.W. he was SO wrong on immigration. He was and still is.

            G.W. is one of those Republicans who desperately wants the approval of the Leftwing News Media, so they say what they think the MSM wants them to say. It’s kind of pathetic really.

          • “You’re rough on history.

            The reason the media made a big deal of the policy, required by US law, under Trump but not under Obama is because they wanted to hurt Trump but not Obama. Should be obvious.”

            It’s certainly obvious to me. The partisan MSM shows its ugly face.

          • The whole world knows human rights are of no interest or value to private bonespur and his team.

          • Human rights are whatever a liberal says they are and can change on a moments notice if the needs of the liberal change.

        • That Obama did it is fully documented.
          In Simon’s world, if the liberal press doesn’t cover the bad stuff a liberal president does, that’s proof the liberal president never did anything bad.

    • And now it’s open market more human traffickers on the border because media zombies such as yourself launching brainless social justice crusades over something that has been going on for decades for a reason.

    • Simon, second stage TDS is can be overcome without permanent damage. But you need to act soon.

      Your first option is to acknowledge and accept it … admit that you are wrong and that it is your specific internal problem (it is not external). This will not keep you from your current feelings of anger/frustration, but you will not develop into the more dangerous Phase 3 symptoms.

      Your second option is to look for an outright cure …

      1) get out of your close bubble of similar TDS acquaintances.
      2) research, recognize, and accept that all politicians are, in some ways, crap. One is no better than the other with respect to irritating the other side … STOP BEING A HYPOCRITE.
      3) stop being a hypocrite.
      4) stop being a hypocrite.
      5) get some exercise and eat some red meat.

    • For which “event” there is no evidence whatsoever.

      But you’re right that we are bombarded from space with smaller meteors almost daily.

    • Win-win! It will simultaneously smash the biggest producer of “evil carbon” – and raise a dust cloud to reverse the “horrible damage already done.”

      I’ve always said that anyone holding up a “STOP GLOBAL WARMING!” sign, that is not holding up another sign with “NUKE CHINA NOW!” is a fraud.

  11. I just assumed that a couple of molecules of CO2 distributed around the Oort cloud would melt all the comets. Preperation A for the assteroids.

    • Like, totally awesome, dude!

      Turn the Oort Cloud into a vast water ice sphere around the whole solar system.

      Like, totally cool to the max, indeed tubular!

  12. Do you need nukes? IIRC a fleck of paint going the opposite way around the earth to a Shuttle cracked the windshield. The SpaceX BFR can deliver 150 tons to low earth orbit. Speaking hypothetically if 150 tons of steel moving at 10 miles a second hits an asteroid moving the opposite direction at 25 miles per second the energy released might be 50 kilotons

  13. “Even better detection systems without the deflection capability would give people in regions affected by incoming space debris a chance to find shelter.”

    “Oh no! There go the sirens! OK, children, everyone get under your desks!”

    • I’ve seen you say some really stupid things over the last few months, but this one takes the cake.

      There were thousands of people injured by the asteroid in Russia a few years back.
      Do you honestly believe that a few hours of even minutes or warning wouldn’t have helped them prepare?

  14. I had fun with this concept in a short story — it’s in one of my collections on Amazon in Kindle format — using three different drive systems, Orion-style nuke, steam rocket and laser sail. MV^2 was the main way of breaking the asteroid apart, with slowing down the astronaut’s final vehicle the major problem. I really enjoyed employing the solar-powered steam rocket.

    The fictional reason my characters built the asteroid shield was to kick start a failing economy. Perhaps the tech boost of this real world example will drive us into space in a meaningful way, so whatever the motivation I think it’s a good thing.

    Any Hollywood producer looking for a good plot should read my short story Lucifer Falling, available at the same place in the Lucifer Falling and Other Stories collection — CGI is at last good enough to do it justice.

  15. Surely it is a question of what we might sensibly be able to achieve. As several people have pointed out, if we are in the path of a very large impact or – the sort that is going to destroy a continent – than realistically there is not much we will currently be able to do about it.

    But there is nothing wrong with improving our ability to detect objects and we should aim to try and find smaller imp actors which have the potential to destroy a city or region as far out as possible. I suppose I’m talking about objects of the size of a large house or so (but I’m willing to be corrected by more expert opinion). If we can deflect an object like this as far out as possible then the effort may well be worth it. Smaller objects are likely to be a struggle and we may just have to accept the inevitable – most fall in the sea anyway.

    In the long term placing automated satellites in strategic orbits far out might be achievable. These might be able to either fire nukes at incoming objects to deflect them or perhaps “push” them off course. But this must be a very long term plan.

  16. I would start preparing for a BIG Carrington event. For our current civilization it’s a much bigger threat and much cheaper to accomplice.

    • I heard an expert on tv a few weeks ago say that the U.S. could prevent its electrical system from being knocked off line by a nuclear EMP or a Carrington Event by spending about $3 billion to build some spare transformers and by putting better circuit breakers on current transformers.

      That sounds like a cheap investment to me. We definitely need to be doing this and strenthening our electrical grid.

      An electrical grid failure could cost millions of lives.

      • While a Carrington even has a huge amount of energy this energy is spread over the entire planet. It’s the energy density at any given point that determines how much damage is done. The energy density of a lightning strike is way higher than anything a Carrington event can generate. Beyond that, compared to a lightning strike, a Carrington event is very slow moving.
        The idea that a Carrington event can wipe out the entire grid is nonsense.

        While EMPs are faster than Carrington events, they are still slower than lightning strikes and they suffer from the same dispersed energy problem . EMPs suffer from a different problem. The energy density drops off with the square of the distance from device that caused the EMP.

        • I don’t understand downplaying the possible effects of a Carrington event. The freak’n telegraph lines caught on fire, dude!

          • The freaking telegraph lines had no voltage protectors on them.

            Pushing people into wasting resources on an imaginary threat is what we have climate scientists for. We don’t need to branch out.

            PS: the telegraph lines were hundreds of miles long. It took that long a conductor to build up enough charge to do something damaging. And that was on a system with no protection.

  17. There are actually several feasible deflection/destruction strategies. Remember that the maximum deflection ever needed would be about 4,000 miles, and usually less.

    If a threat is detected long in advance one or more gravity tractors with ion engines might suffice.

    A faster deflection could be achieved by small nuclear devices exploding near the asteroid. In this case it is not the explosion itself that causes the deflection but rather the recoil force from vaporized asteroid material.

    The fastest and most violent method would be to try to deflect or break up an object by a large thermonuclear device. This would probably be the only possible counter to a previously unknown incoming comet.

    And, yes, breaking up a large object would usually decrease the total damage. A series of high-altitude explosions would cause local devastation, but a large cratering impact has global effects, as witness Chicxulub.

    And please note. Asteroid impact is a proven threat, unlike CAGW. There are more than 200 impact craters world-wide, even though craters are rapidly degraded on Earth and almost none are known from the deep oceans, where most impacts must have happened.

  18. Pres. Reagan’s SDI, Strategic Defense Initiative offer in 1983 that the Soviet turned down, is back on the table. Russia has shown interest in Strategic Defense of the Earth – it would be fantastic if Pres. Trump offers Pres. Putin a game changer. After all it would take military logistics to ever mount a timely intervention. A space hardened military. Imagine these two militaries cooperating! Actually they already did very successfully in WWII.

    • The Democrats would call that collusion.

      The Democrats did their best to poison the U.S./Russia relationship. Maybe Trump can fix it a little.

      Not that the Russians are pure as the driven snow, but we do have mutual interests and it is in noone’s interest to have an adversarial relationship. Although a lot of that depends on how Putin acts in the future, but we should at least talk.

      When Trump took over from Obama, Obama told him that North Korea would be Trump’s most pressing problem. Trump asked Obama if he had ever tried to talk to Kim. Obama said he had not. Trump thought that was kind of stupid and decided to do a little talking before going to war, and guess what, Kim wanted to do some talking, too.

      So we should talk to Russia. The Russian people are good people just like all the rest of us peons in the world. It’s their leadership that is lacking.

      • That the Russians themselves are good people is not the question. The Russian people have little say in who leads them.

        • Just look at the popularity ratings – nowhere in the crumbling EU especially Britain, or even the US is such to be seen. And don’t give me Chatham House RIIA balderdash. Trump will meet Putin soon – there is a lot to be discussed, in spite of the failed British russiagate, Skripal attempted murder, fake-flag white-helmet gas attacks. It must be chew-the-carpet time in Whitehall, and Buckingham. What will the rage-balls think of next? Crash the City’s financial system deliberately? Deutsche Bank ? N. Prins had identified that caper. They are nuts enough to try. Trump (and Bernie and Italy) all have Glass-Steagall on the table to counter this warfare. Let London just try!

  19. Maybe they should practice on stopping a slow, low energy threat (like a volcano) first ….before having a go at fast, high energy stuff like Asteroids.

  20. Well, this will be a ginormous waste of money much like every dollar spent on global warming. But at least some useful technology would probably be developed from it.

    • That asteroids have hit the planet is proven.
      That several big enough to do damage have hit the planet in the last 100 years is not in doubt.
      Why do you say that any effort to prevent further impacts is a waste of money?

  21. Freshman Physics-101 shows that sufficient momentum cannot be transferred, and the Precautionary Principle is the exclamation point.

    • It all depends on the warning time. Adding a velocity vector of one millimeter per second will cause an asteroid aimed dead center to miss Earth completely after 200 years.

      Now, I don’t think we can calculate orbits that closely so far forward in time, so in practice you would need to achieve maybe a 5 millimeters per second vector.

        • No, check your math: 0.001 m/s * 10 yr * 365.25 day/yr * 24 hr/day * 3600 s/hr = 315,576 m = 316 km. You are off by two orders of magnitude.

          Earth’s diameter is about 12,749 km.

  22. From the Report: “This assessment should include the most mature in-space concepts—kinetic impactors, nuclear devices, and gravity tractors for deflection, and nuclear devices for disruption—as well as less mature NEO impact prevention methods.”

    One of those less mature prevention methods will be using lasers to deflect asteriods.

    “Potentially hazardous asteroids are still looming large in the minds of scientists engaged in planetary defense issues. Numerous strategies describing deflection of near-Earth objects (NEOs) have been proposed, including methods employing kinetic impactors, robotic mining, and gravity tractors. However, one of the concepts has recently received attention as one of the most serious proposals.

    The project, named DE-STAR (Directed Energy System for Targeting of Asteroids and exploRation), envisions a large phased-array laser in Earth orbit to deflect asteroids, comets, and other NEOs endangering the planet. There is also a much smaller, though similar system being considered, called DE-STARLITE, that could travel alongside the target, slowly deflecting it from nearby over a long period.

    According to the authors of these proposals, their goal was to create an orbital planetary defense system capable of heating the surface of potentially hazardous objects to the point of vaporization. They emphasize that vaporization on the surface of an object continually ejects vaporized material, creating a reactionary force that pushes the object into a new path. This can be accomplished by lasers deployed on spacecraft stationed near the asteroid [or by high-powered lasers in Earth orbit].

    The system should be capable of projecting a laser at a distant asteroid with sufficient flux to heat a spot on the surface and vaporize solid rock. Currently, high-powered lasers deliver sufficient energy density to melt and vaporize any known material.

    “Generally speaking, the technology is available today. The main challenge with building a full DE-STAR is the necessary scale to be effective,” Qicheng Zhang of the University of California, Santa Barbara, one of the authors of the project, told

    Zhang and his colleagues claim that if DE-STAR had a 330-feet-wide phased laser array, it could divert volatile-laden asteroids 330 feet in diameter by initiating engagement at about two million miles. However, DE-STARLITE, being a much smaller and less expensive system, is the more practical option. For instance, a 20 kW version of DE-STARLITE operating for 15 years could deflect an Apophis-size (1,066 feet) asteroid at a distance equal to Earth’s diameter. A 1 MW version could deflect all known threats up to 1,640 feet in diameter with five-year laser activity.

    end excerpt

    A large Solar Power Satellite could produce 1 GW or more.

    NASA is thinking too small! 🙂

    • How is it that you never heard of a neutron pumped hafnium gamma laser? Please correct this deficiency – it could be fatal. Hint – SDI.

    • Tom, you posted: “From the Report: ‘This assessment should include the most mature in-space concepts—kinetic impactors, nuclear devices, and gravity tractors for deflection, . . .’ ”

      Sorry, I could not read beyond this point due to my laughing fit from trying to reconcile “gravity tractors” with “mature in-space concepts”.

      Beam me up, Scotty!

      • We have had several spacecraft match orbits with comets in recent years, so I guess such a vehicle could qualify as a potential gravity tractor, and one of them even used a kinetic impactor. 🙂

        • Compare the mass of those vehicles to the mass of the comets or asteroids they encountered (one spacecraft, NEAR Shoemaker, actually rendezvoused with an asteroid).

          I think you will find the asteroid or comet is always the “gravity tractor” and the spacecraft is always the “tractee”.

          Such encounters make no detectable change in the orbits of these celestial bodies.

          BTW, Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft is planned to rendezvous with the asteroid Ryugu on June 27. The plan is for the spacecraft to land on the asteroid, retrieve samples and return them to Earth around the end of 2020.

          • Exactly my point. Most people don’t have a clue of how large a spacecraft (and its propulsion system) would need to be to make it into a “gravity tractor” that could make a detectable change in the heliocentric orbit of a 1 km diameter asteroid, let alone a 10 km diameter asteroid.

            Right now, the concept of a workable “gravity tractor” is pure fantasy.

  23. I think this is code for …. let’s get back to discovering and learning to use new technology. Most all of the technology we use today was created for other uses, like space, military, etc. The key is, you have to assign such research to some goal, like deflecting asteroids. No one really expects to be able to deflect a killer asteroid, but the technology developed towards that goal could benefit earth and humanity greatly.

    I totally agree, divert the billions spent on stupid programs, like climate change, to more productive endeavors.

    • I really expect humans to be able to deflect killer asteriods. It might take 100 years. So your assumption about “no one really expects…” is wrong. Otherwise you are correct.

  24. I suggest that an EMP strike – natural or manmade – is a moderate-to-high risk, high-impact event with avoidance/mitigation preparations well within our technological and financial means. NASA should take a whack at that first.

    • You mean the Carrington Flare? Sure – grid hardening should be a priority especially going into a Solar minimum. The physics question why CME’s seem to be more prevalent then is priority.

      • Dr. Strangelove was inspired by Henry Kissinger, crossed with Werner v. Braun and Edward Teller, and Pres. Muffley by Adlai Stevenson.

    • I agree. I was going to post that with precision you could detonate a Hydrogen Bomb next to it to deflect it so that it would miss the earth…not easy to do…but feasible.

      • In the vacuum of space, what exactly is there to apply a force to the object ??
        I think it might need a push, and a constant push.

  25. Better detection doesn’t do anything without the ability to remove the menace. You are not going to remove the menace with ground based capabilities. The best method of removing the menace of a large impact object is intercepting and breaking it up, and no one would know for sure how much force that would take or how the object would break up – knock a small piece off it and create a worse impact trajectory being a possibility.

    In other words, the only way this would work is putting nuclear devices into orbit – very large nuclear devices, and that would be the same as weaponizing the orbital space. Sounds harmless until someone decides to use those nuclear devices for other purposes than intended. The risks of an impact are far smaller than that an idiot would use weapons for war.

    • Nuclear devices are just one of many different methods being discussed.

      Why do you assume that the nukes have to be in orbit prior to use?

  26. The good thing is that it is more closely related to what NASA is supposed to be doing.

    Giving more money to actual scientists and engineers for space activities will always be better than giving to global-warming bedwetters who just like to imagine potential environmental catastrophes for a living, but always get it wrong. Could you imagine a NASA that had never actually successfully launched an object into earth orbit? Would they still be deserving of funding? Of course not. The charlatans reading the entrails of climate science predictions need to be defunded ASAP. They don’t even want to create anything of value for the human race. Their motivations are wrong from the getgo.

  27. Treatment of asteroids is fairly simple if you just apply the asteroid cream early and often.

  28. This is definitely an appropriate subject for some preliminary research. The problem breaks down into a very difficult series of escalating risk scenarios. Small asteroids that are far out can be dealt with using present technology if we are ready to act quickly. Larger ones that are far out are not solvable problems at present but we may have some viable options depending on circumstances. Small ones that are detected with little notice are presently beyond our capability to stop[, destroy or deflect but a space based interception system might be deployable with present technology if we do it in advance. The granddaddy is a large one that comes around the sun, giving us inadequate warning of something that is globally catastrophic. No answer to this even on the drawing board. The dinosaurs didn’t have an answer either.

    • Detectors in solar orbit, with at least one always on the opposite side of the sun from earth. Might need a relay reflector for when our star blocks the warning signal.

  29. What did the blond, alterante-energy-enthusiast, asteroid expert do, when a large, life-threatening asteroid was detected ?

    She arranged to have the asteroid aimed for a region of Earth as far away from her as possible, and to harness all its impact energy to power the factories that made her hair products, to keep her looking good for years to come.

    Other benefits included reduction of world population to reduce stress on Gaia. A win-win.

  30. Easy enough to do IF you detect the threat in time and have deep space flight capabilites. Which we don’t at this time.

    If you there a variety of methods to deflect objects – I prefer the land on the rock and deploy a solar sail one. Or you could use an orbiting mirror to concentrate sunlight onto if it’s a big snowball. Melt it down enough to change its velocity.

  31. I guess we can’t charge extra for services to those countries that ignored it or were busy investing in climate change. It’s an all or nothing effort.

  32. Sure, sure . . . and since money is no concern, coming next: NASA’s plans to repel the Klingon fleet.

  33. “The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) was set up in 1984 within the United States Department of Defense to oversee development. A wide array of advanced weapon concepts, including lasers,[2][3] particle beam weapons and ground- and space-based missile systems were studied, along with various sensor, command and control, and high-performance computer systems that would be needed to control a system consisting of hundreds of combat centers and satellites spanning the entire globe. A number of these concepts were tested through the late 1980s, and follow-on efforts and spin-offs continue to this day.”

    “In September 2013, the Catalina and Pan-STARRS sky surveys spotted a mysterious object in the asteroid belt, a region of rocky debris that occupy the space between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Follow-up observations by the Keck Observatory in Hawaii resolved three separate objects within the fuzzy cloud. It was so strange that Hubble mission managers decided to use the space telescope”

    Was the hubble pointed at that particular spot in space for the reason of viewing the results of a test that was carried out by SDIO or what ever they call themselves these days? The natural reason for it blowing up was the sun causing it to spin faster and heat up and rip apart. BUT why was it the only one to go through this process of ripping apart when surrounded by other asteroids. Did the sun target this asteroid or was it a test carried out by the Defence Department.???

  34. It is nice to see that the Obama-era plan has been fleshed out and in the current plan the real rubber-hits-the-road moment is,

    3.4 Identify, assess the readiness of, estimate in the costs of, and propose development paths for key technologies required by NEO impact prevention concepts. This assessment should include the most mature in-space concepts—kinetic impactors, nuclear devices, and gravity tractors for deflection, and nuclear devices for disruption —as well as less mature NEO impact prevention methods. Technology assessments should consider contemporary work, including potential synergies with relevant private industry interests (e.g., asteroid mining). They should also consider NEO impact scenarios that may have received insufficient attention thus far (e.g., binary asteroids, high-speed comets). [Short term; NASA, NNSA, DoD]

    Asteroid interception is where the goofiest ideas emerge to monopolize discussion and take debate away from practical ideas that would give us a chance of survival in all cases. When you interrupt geeks talking about their favorite solution, something like deploying solar sails to nudge asteroids, to point out their scenario is for an extremely narrow case and it would be irresponsible to pursue such an idea to the exclusion of more practical ones… they get all but-hurt.

    My own solution which I’ve broadcast to Trump and two NASA directors and others, is simple and direct. No nukes or exotic technology.

    1. kinetic impactor rockets loaded with payloads of simple Lunar dirt
    2. missile battery on Moon, manned, truly ready to launch at a moment’s notice
    3. hundreds, even thousands — that can swarm to ensure multiplicity and mass
    4. the result: best possible assurance of success for an existential threat

    Anything less, or more, is a half solution or placebo fantasy to appease fanboys of exotic and impractical technology.

    • What is the estimated life-cycle cost to emplace your proposed fleet of rockets on the Moon and to have them suitably housed so that they don’t appreciably degrade over, say, 20 years of projected operational readiness?

      I’ll even accept that you don’t need to include the cost of having the humans on the Moon for this purpose because it should be feasible to use robots instead, thereby saving enormous costs.

      Get back to me on this estimate, and how many times the world’s GDP it will be.

  35. Shouls be discussed with President Putin next month. Russia proposed a joint project “Strategic Defense of Earth,” 7 years and has already begun . But of course it fell on the big, deaf ears of the jerk then in the WH.

  36. So, do the deflect or destroy meteorites? Can they even chose? If you cant put enough energy into destroy it the only result might be deflection. SO does NASA nudge them out of the way of the US only for them to fall on some other country?

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