Matthew Cross outlines three ways to defeat killer asteroids to save Earth; Pound it, Push it, or Pull it.
In the novel ASTEROIDS – Bridge to Nowhere the characters attempt to use one of these methods to stop an Earth ending asteroid.
Read ASTEEROIDS to see how that works out for them!
If astronomers found a large asteroid headed towards Earth, could we defeat it before it smacked into our atmosphere, raining down fire and destruction?
Astronomers, physicists and engineers have been watching for “planet-killing” asteroids and other space bodies and making plans for decades. I just finished reading the Space column in my November/December issue of Popular Mechanics by Jennifer Leman, titled “Could a Cosmic Lasso Divert Extinction-Level Asteroids?”
It’s a good read and I recommend you check it out. In the meantime, I was thinking of the 3 basic ways to defeat an asteroid, which can be found in discussions with scientists and also in Sci Fi film and literature: pound it, push it, or pull it.
1) Pound it
That’s right, pound the asteroid with missiles, nukes, bombs, whatever! Throw everything we have at it. Blow it up! So simple and easy, a 5-year-old could figure it out.
That is possible, but a “blown up” giant asteroid can be as dangerous, sometimes more dangerous, than an intact one. Consider a Mack truck rushing towards you at 100 miles per hour. If it hits you, you’re a pancake. But if I disassemble that Mack truck into its thousands of metal and plastic pieces, put them on a cart, and shove them at you at 100 miles per hour, the pieces are just as dangerous as the fully assembled Mack truck.
The point is that “blowing up” an asteroid does not change the overall mass of ice and rock. Unless the explosion threw most of that mass off its course with Earth, it would still be a devastating blow for life on Earth whether the asteroid was one solid piece, hundreds of one-ton pieces, or even a massive cloud of dust. In fact, sometimes pieces are worse.
Here’s what Jennifer Leman says on this topic in her Popular Mechanics piece:
“It’s risky to Hulk-smash an Earth-bound, extinction-level asteroid, though. ‘In general, when we move an asteroid, we want to keep it in one piece,’ says planetary astronomer . . . Andrew Rivkin, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. The rock could break apart and create a wave of several smaller ‘city-killing’ asteroids instead.’ (This risk also applies to an Armageddon-style nuclear solution, we’re told–there are no plans to test a space nuke at this time.)”
Dust is also a problem.
According to killerasteroids.org, “to lead to a global catastrophe, an asteroid or comet only has to be big enough to launch large amounts of dust into the atmosphere. That leads to the abrupt change in climate that wipes out species.”
If an intact asteroid enters the atmosphere as one giant mass, hits the ground, and releases a giant cloud of dust, it’s bad.…