Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Now yer talkin'.......................

Hey NASA, pay attention!

Asteroid Eaters: Robots to Hunt Space Rocks, Protect Earth

"At the movies, the best way to stop an asteroid from wiping out Earth is to lob a few nuclear missiles at the rocky beast or blow it apart from the inside with megaton bombs.

While those methods promise some fantastic explosions -- and maybe a blockbuster hit -- a team of engineers are looking at a more patient approach. Their weapon: a swarm of nuclear-powered robots that could drill into an asteroid and hurl chunks of it into space with enough force to gradually push it into a non-Earth impacting course.

"We're aiming to examine the whole idea of these robots," said Matthew Graham, design project manager for the study at SpaceWorks Engineering, Inc. (SEI), an engineering consulting and concept analysis firm in Atlanta, Georgia.

SEI researchers have completed a preliminary study into the robots, called Modular Asteroid Deflection Mission Ejector Node (MADMEN) spacecraft, under a grant awarded by the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) to come up with new techniques to defend the planet against pesky near-Earth objects (NEOs).

"Previous studies by NASA and NIAC focused on concepts that could detect asteroids or bump them using propulsion systems of nuclear weapons," NIAC director Robert Cassanova told "[MADMEN] was rather unique in that it would nibble away at the asteroid."

Read the rest of the article.

The only big problem I forsee with this technique is, how are we going to affect an asteroid spinning in random rotations? Not to mention it being miles wide?

For instance let's look at Toutatis.

Toutatis is about 2.9 miles long and 1.5 miles wide (4.6 by 2.4 kilometers).

From the article-

"Toutatis looks something like a dumbbell hurtling awkwardly through space. It has a crazy rotation that makes normal days impossible. Scientists can't explain the shape or the spin, but they're eager to learn more in September when, during the close pass, even backyard skywatchers will be able to spot the asteroid.

So how would the robots be effective against an asteroid as big and awkward as this?

I would think not very. But the idea does have potential, and ANYTHING that someone proposes and tests would be better than what we are currently doing, which technically is nothing.

Once again, Saturn, Mars, etc.- none of this will mean anything to me until we can get a higher level of security in terms of dealing with NEO's.

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