Revolutionary ways to remove asteroids out of orbit.


On December 3, 2014 Discovery Channel's Daily Planet promoted a new product that has the capabilities to grip asteroids, and take them with it. Inspired with the way bugs walks on walls with tiny hooks and their feet, Aaron Parness decided to make a robotic version. His originally created to climb up steep, rocky areas, but instead got a call from NASA to help them with their space project. NASA wants to use the machine to take an asteroid and bring it back to Earth. The gripper can also be used to remove asteroids from their trajectory.

Although the machine has much potential, there are lots of errors. To begin with, the "arms" can only retract to about 45 degrees. The gripper will not be able to grip asteroids that make the gripper go more than 45 degrees. Furthermore, the main concept is using tiny hooks to grip the asteroid. What will happen if the asteroid is smooth, or the hooks break, the machine will be useless. On top of that, although the machine grips the asteroid, a human has to lift the the machine. What if the asteroid is too heavy to carry. There is lots of tiny contraptions in the machine, if even one part breaks or malfunctions, the whole mission is ruined because there is no replacements in space.

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Solar Sail

A french researcher has discovered a plan to change the course of an asteroid called Aphophis which is set to hit the Earth in 2036. Solar Sail can shift the course of an asteroid by protecting the asteroid from solar radiation. The Yarkovsky effect creates a tiny amount of thrust on the warm side of an asteroid. This process will change the course of the asteroid.

Although the idea seems very promising, there are lots of room for error. For example, what happens if Aphophis travels too fast that the material rips off. In addition, there is a great difficulty for the material to make contact with the asteroid. Since the material has no thrusters attached to it, it is required to be perfect on the first time. There is no second chance because you will not be able to get it back. Furthermore, there is lots of potential for the heat from the sun to burn the material. The material is a very thin and fragile substance, so if it is ripped or ruined, the plan would result in a fail.

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Coating the asteroid

A method of asteroid avoidance would be to cover it in "paint." Painting the asteroid with a thin coat of paint would change the amount of sunlight reflected by asteroid and will make the asteroid hit the Earth. The thermal photons that are on the asteroid's surface will radiate and move the asteroid. This is also known as the Yarkovsky effect. The issue with the plan is that the powered paint has to applied long before the impact to Earth. The process takes long to work.

The idea seems easy on paper, but very difficult in reality. For example, it will be quite difficult to coat the asteroid. This will most likely require multiple rockets to travel to the asteroid. Also, how can the asteroid even be coated? It will be extremely difficult and time consuming for humans to coat the asteroid. At the same time, since it takes a long time for the plan to work, the asteroid has to be coated long before it makes contact with anything. If anything goes wrong, it will be too late because it take long for the plan to work.

Gravity Tractor

A group of English scientists have made a plan that would stop asteroids from hitting the Earth. Orbiting rocks can be deflected before it hits the Earth with a 10 tonne gravity tractor. The tractor can intercept the orbit of the asteroid from about 50 metres away and use a small gravitational force on it. The force would cause the asteroid to come closer to the tractor and put it on another trajectory away from Earth.

The plan seems far-fetched and unable to achieve with modern technology. To begin with, it would require much thrust and power to take the tractor to space. Furthermore, the tractor can intercept the asteroid from about 50 metres away, but what if the the asteroid is travelling to fast and there is not enough gravitational force to change its trajectory. Unless there is an outer space freeze gun that can slow asteroids, which there is not, the plan cannot be hoped to work.

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Gravitational Slingshot

Four students from Gordon Graydon Memorial Secondary School used 4 Ion thrusters to redirect the D-1 asteroid that is going to annihilate the Earth in one year. The students are planning to use Ion thrusters to guide the asteroid the size of United States towards Earth's gravitational orbit, and perform a gravitational slingshot. The D-1 asteroid is traveling through space at 14 km/s. It is planned for the thrusters to accelerate to 20 km/s to make contact when the asteroid goes near the moons atmosphere. The thrusters will gradually guide the the asteroid towards Earth's gravitational orbit.

Although has a very high chance to work, there is one problem. The Ion thrusters will attach to the asteroid when it is near the moons atmosphere. That is approximately 384 400 km away. I do not believe that the thrusters do not have the power to last this long going at a speed of 20-40 km/s.

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