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British Company Takes Lead To Stop Asteroids

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the prepare-to-take-the-money-and-run dept.

NASA 198

An anonymous reader writes to tell us that following the news of NASA's budget cuts impacting their ability to do things like watch the sky for asteroids, a British company has decided to create a "gravity tractor" ship that could divert asteroids away from Earth if the need should arise. Of course, a gravity tractor certainly isn't a new idea. "Dr. Cordey said the company had worked with a number of space authorities on other methods of protecting the Earth from asteroids, but this one would be able to target a wider range. He said: 'We have done quite a lot of design work on this with the European Space Agency and we believe this would work just as well on a big solid iron asteroid as well as other types.' But the high cost implications mean that before the device could be made, it would have to be commissioned by a government or a group of governments working together."

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anonymous coward takes lead to FIRST POST (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29267957)

you take the lead to eat my asshole.

Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29268839)

Will this stop the fall of brown nuggets and the flow of golden showers?

The Free Market fixes another intractable problem! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29267971)

But the high cost implications mean that before the device could be made, it would have to be commissioned by a government or a group of governments working together.

Oh, never mind then.

What about their business plan? (3, Funny)

dapyx (665882) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268329)

I'm very curious to learn which is their business plan. Could it be "pay us a gazillion dollars or we won't use our technology against the asteroid"?

Re:What about their business plan? (-1, Troll)

D'Sphitz (699604) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268451)

I don't know (i didn't rtfa either) but it's amazing that things that we have the means to do, wouldn't be particularly expensive, and which could save the human race some day, we don't do simply because it's not profitable (like killing Arabs).

Re:What about their business plan? (1)

master5o1 (1068594) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268625)

(like killing Arabs).

Wait...what?

Re:What about their business plan? (1)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268969)

I think he means that killing Arabs is profitable (Halliburton, anyone?), while making preparations to save humanity generally isn't.

Re:What about their business plan? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29269227)

shit i agree on this

with the petroleum money the raise the tuition price of our best university than they leave for some backward ass country

funny captcha fisted

Re:What about their business plan? (5, Funny)

gijoel (628142) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268707)

Nice planet you've got here.....

Be a shame if something happened to it.

Re:What about their business plan? (3, Insightful)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268827)

I'm very curious to learn which is their business plan. Could it be "pay us a gazillion dollars or we won't use our technology against the asteroid"?

Any technology that can be used to divert an asteroid away from the Earth can also be used to direct one toward the Earth. I would guess they could get venture capital for a business plan like "pay us a gazillion dollars or we will use our technology to alter the course of this asteroid."

Lots of other businesses have "destroy the Earth" in their business plan. Why should commercial space ventures be any different?

Re:What about their business plan? (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 5 years ago | (#29269143)

Perhaps it could also be used for catching asteroids and parking them in orbit for automated mining.

Re:What about their business plan? (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#29269593)

No point. Plenty of asteroids are already in a parking orbit.

It would be way too expensive to force an asteroid that's hurtling towards the earth to slow down and go into orbit instead of whizzing past.

Re:What about their business plan? (2, Insightful)

shadowblaster (1565487) | more than 5 years ago | (#29269547)

I would call their bluff.

If they don't use it, they won't be around either after the asteroid hits.

Re:The Free Market fixes another intractable probl (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29268429)

Does the phrase "free market" offend you in some way? Is it sacriligeous to you, does it defile all that you hold to be dear and sacred? Does it drown dolphins and club baby seals to death? Or are a few ACs so incredibly fixated with it merely because a few prominent media figures like to talk about it?

Hmm, let's see now: a few talk show hosts keep using the phrase "free market", so you in turn use every opportunity to work it into any Slashdot discussion that mentions purchasing or funding anything. That tells me two things. One, those talk shows were obviously very effective on you. A talk show host doesn't generally want you to listen to his show and then forget all about everything he was saying; what you are doing is very much like the fixation that gets them the ratings they need before they can laugh all the way to the bank. Two, you're making "your side" look like such obsessive repetitive idiots that anyone who would have been receptive or sympathetic to your views stands a high chance of being turned off by them and refusing to consider them. Good job.

It's such a simple issue, too. If you are talking about regulated government monopolies like electric utilities or telephone companies, "deregulation" just gives them more ability to abuse their customers because all the deregulation in the world doesn't remove the incredibly high barriers to entry that is an inherent feature of those industries (you want to really, truly compete with the phone company, first you need to run wires to every home in your service area - not trivial). If you are talking about industries that are not inherently monopolistic, then you have a couple of choices. You can have the government worry only about actual crimes like fraud and otherwise let it be understood that "you are on your own" so if you as a customer fail to look after your own interests, that's your problem. Or you can have regulations in place to make it much less likely that the average person gets screwed, at the disadvantage of treating adult citizens as though they were incompetent children, expanded government bureaucracy and all the problems that come with it, and the removal of what would otherwise have been negative outcomes attached to poor decision-making (also known as personal responsibility). Those of us who don't need a nanny state government that knows what's best for us prefer that the government only worry about actual crimes. Those of us who are more naive and really want to believe that $multinational_corporation is our bestest buddy and would never take advantage of us in any way because the people in the commercials all look so happy, tend to want government to take on more of a micromanagement role. Because those of us who are capable of good decision-making and can think entirely for ourselves are in the minority, and do suffer secondary effects from the unprincipled impulsiveness and poor decision-making of the majority, a balance between those two is generally desired.

The issue is really that simple and all of the "must demonize the free market!" AC troll posts in the world won't change that. End of fascination.

Re:The Free Market fixes another intractable probl (0, Offtopic)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 5 years ago | (#29269011)

"Does it drown dolphins and club baby seals to death?"

Actually, I've been thinking of a little getaway. Someplace a guy can just be himself, let his guard down, and relax. Are you selling vacations? I could enjoy clubbing a few baby seals, and roasting their little carcasses over a nice propane fire. Liberal supplies of alcohol antifreeze, maybe some Valkyrie waitresses and chambermaids . . . . .

Re:The Free Market fixes another intractable probl (0)

MrMista_B (891430) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268629)

Glad you support the free market!

When the cost of making this device is equal to or less than the value provided by it, it will be made.

Until then, since at the moment there would be no value provided by the creation of this that would be equal to or greater than the cost of its creation, the value expenditure won't be made.

The Free Market wins and works again!

Re:The Free Market fixes another intractable probl (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29268699)

Glad you support the free market!

That sound you hear is people laughing at you, not with you.

When the cost of making this device is equal to or less than the value provided by it, it will be made.

Except that when the "product" is the collective safety of the entire earth and there is no opportunity for profit, then the free market will let it slide, waiting for "big bad government" to fill in the gaps, as it always does, no thanks to the randites.

Until then, since at the moment there would be no value provided by the creation of this that would be equal to or greater than the cost of its creation, the value expenditure won't be made.

And if there is something headed our way that will literally destroy the entire world, "free market" and all, then so be it, huh?

The Free Market "wins" and "works" again!

FTFY

Re:The Free Market fixes another intractable probl (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268815)

When the cost of making this device is equal to or less than the value provided by it, it will be made.

The problem with that theory is time. Free markets are highly reactive, not proactive. It takes a long time for a gravity tractor to significantly affect an asteroid. By the time the free market realizes that a gravity tractor is of value, it may be too late for it to be effective.

Re:The Free Market fixes another intractable probl (1)

LandGator (625199) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268783)

Or, Bill Gates.

Re:The Free Market fixes another intractable probl (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 5 years ago | (#29269007)

I've wondered about this kind of an issue, it seems to be some kind of dilemma because the people funding it to save the earth would even helping those that aren't willing to help pay for it because those people assume that someone else will pay for it. If everyone assumes someone else will pay for it and as such, don't bother to pitch in, will the problem actually be solved? Assuming this is a problem that human civilization has to solve, this could be one of the biggest, most convoluted games of chicken one can conceive of.

Re:The Free Market fixes another intractable probl (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29269265)

In one fictional scenario, the earth governments pay for it; rather than using a "gravity tractor", they use nukes to blow the things into (relatively) small pieces.

http://www.stratos4.jp/ [stratos4.jp]

Bad science (-1, Flamebait)

Chairboy (88841) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268011)

The concept behind a 'gravity tractor' is fatally flawed. Gravity is the weakest force in the universe, the only reason it matters to us is that there's enough mass making up Earth to make it worth paying attention to.

Instead of sitting next to asteroid, it'd be far more effective to dock the probe and push directly using the vaunted ion thrusters.

TANSTAAFL, folks.

Re:Bad science (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29268179)

!Bad Science.

Works perfectly fine if you have enough lead time. Plus much cheaper than pushing. Not a 'free lunch' but still cheaper

Re:Bad science (2, Informative)

SlashV (1069110) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268253)

Works perfectly fine if you have enough lead time

We should be happy enough when we see it coming at all.. How much "lead time" do you expect to have?

Re:Bad science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29268605)

Erm, actually, for an asteroid big enough to knock out a city, we'd probably have ten years or so notice.

Re:Bad science (2, Informative)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268795)

Erm, actually, an asteroid big enough to knock out a city is about 10m in diameter. We'd probably have no notice whatsoever. Of course the likelihood that it would hit a city is pretty small.

Re:Bad science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29269269)

Erm, actually, an asteroid big enough to knock out a city is about 10m in diameter...

The only answer: Sharks with lasers.

Re:Bad science (2, Insightful)

El Torico (732160) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268307)

Nuclear weapons would be far more entertaining; kind of a near-Earth fireworks display ("ooooh, aahhhh"). Besides, one more used up there is one less that may be used down here.

Re:Bad science (1)

SilverHatHacker (1381259) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268437)

Except for, you know, the fallout from the blast.

Re:Bad science (1)

hort_wort (1401963) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268517)

I think everyone would vote to go ahead and take the slight amount of radioactive dust spread over the whole planet, raising our radiation exposure rate by 0.01% or whatever, to go ahead and prevent the Earth from getting smacked by Texas. Ooooo fun:
http://www.epa.gov/rpdweb00/understand/calculate.html [epa.gov]

Re:Bad science (1)

SilverHatHacker (1381259) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268851)

That's assuming we completely decimate the rock. If it's so big that we only break it open, the weather report could be cloudy with a chance of car-sized rocks.

Re:Bad science (5, Interesting)

LandGator (625199) | more than 5 years ago | (#29269047)

If you explode a nuke outside the Van Allens, the fallout is swept away by solar wind. We've done it before. http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/nuclear/hane.html [johnstonsarchive.net] However, a conventional nuke might only decimate an incoming Big Rock, leaving 90% behind. I'd rather see a pusher plate mated to the Big Rock, then detonate specially designed nukes against the plate, like in the Project Orion ship in FOOTFALL. http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/O/OrionProj.html [daviddarling.info] http://books.google.com/books?id=4S2KocYp8AkC&pg=PA159&lpg=PA159&dq= [google.com] "pusher+plate"+Orion&source=bl&ots=yRM2KRDRst&sig=NWZvu3gbjAAwyKva2-Jl_jlduhM&hl=en&ei=qnucSs-xCJSwsgPxwNCaDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4#v=onepage&q=%22pusher%20plate%22%20Orion&f=false

Re:Bad science (1)

highbulp (1216382) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268185)

I'd angle the deflector shields, but that's just me.

Re:Bad science (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268239)

Ah yes. As always, the random Slashdot poster is smarter and knows better than whole legions of physicists and engineers.

Re:Bad science (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29268281)

Naturally. A PhD in physics and engineering, among other subjects, is required before one is allowed to post on Slashdot. How the hell did you get in?

Re:Bad science (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268695)

Ah yes. As always, the random Slashdot poster is smarter and knows better than whole legions of physicists and engineers.

Actually, he doesn't have to be smarter than legions of physicists and engineers. So far, this is in a very early planning stage. Therefore, changes are he only has to beat a board of executives who knows nothing about physics or science (on average) who have been given a high level executive summary of this great idea that they should invest in and how it can both lead to a better world (not being smashed up by said cosmic nasty) and possibly making a good deal of money based on their investment (after all, what government wouldn't be chipping in if cosmic nasty was hurtling towards their patch of Earth?) and the rest... that's for the project managers, development managers, customer representative managers and all those other managers to solve. The guy who knows his physics and engineering inside out might actually propose "Hey why don't we just stick an ion drive onto it and push it out? Will be better than a gravity tractor!" and his comments might get slowly fed up the chain of command, but likely it will hit somewhere and stop before it gets to anyhow who can make that sensible decision.

Seeing as this company has "decided to create a gravity tractor ship", I wouldn't be surprised at all if there hasn't actually been a surprisingly LACK of physicists and engineers involved at this point in time.

Re:Bad science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29268777)

Exactly. This sounds like something based on a business plan written by the average teenage slashdotter before they learn much of anything about anything.

Re:Bad science (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#29269747)

Actually, he doesn't have to be smarter than legions of physicists and engineers.

Actually, yes he does - because this gravity tractor has been intensely studied for some time. As indicated by this link [slashdot.org] prominently provided right in the article, had you bothered to read it.
 
 

Therefore, changes are he only has to beat a board of executives who knows nothing about physics or science (on average) who have been given a high level executive summary of this great idea that they should invest in and how it can both lead to a better world (not being smashed up by said cosmic nasty) and possibly making a good deal of money based on their investment

Had you bothered to read the article [bbc.co.uk] linked in the summary you'd have noted the scientists work for EADS Astrium - one of the worlds leading aerospace companies. (Assuming of course you are familiar enough with the world of aerospace to know the leading companies.)
 
 

Seeing as this company has "decided to create a gravity tractor ship", I wouldn't be surprised at all if there hasn't actually been a surprisingly LACK of physicists and engineers involved at this point in time.

I think I've adequately demonstrated that you haven't a clue what you are talking about. Your opinion are irrelevant, uninformed, and meaningless.

Re:Bad science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29268357)

Not a single space scientist has ever had that thought. Good research.

Re:Bad science (0)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268401)

I think the whole "search for killer asteroids" is fatally flawed. Let's see... the last one hit 200,000,000 years ago. The last time someone won my State lottery was just last week, and typically they hand-out ten of these multi-million dollars prizes a year, so 10 out of 4 million tickets sold.

I have about 500 times better odds of winning my State lottery, than getting killed by an asteroid. I'm not expecting the former to happen during my lifetime, and doubt the latter will either.

If humans do go extinct, it's probably be through suicide rather than a giant rock.

Re:Bad science (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268687)

I'm not worried about radiation exposure from this sample. The odds of one of those atoms decaying is infinitesimal!

Re:Bad science (4, Insightful)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268883)

I think the whole "search for killer asteroids" is fatally flawed. Let's see... the last one hit 200,000,000 years ago. The last time someone won my State lottery was just last week, and typically they hand-out ten of these multi-million dollars prizes a year, so 10 out of 4 million tickets sold.

I have about 500 times better odds of winning my State lottery, than getting killed by an asteroid.

You have a problem with your math and your numbers. Big asteroids hit about every 68 million years. If one hit tomorrow it would kill 6.8 billion people. So on average, we can expect asteroids to kill about 100 people per year. That means you are about 10 times more likely to be killed in an asteroid impact than to win the state lottery.

Re:Bad science (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 5 years ago | (#29269613)

"Big asteroids hit about every 68 million years"

And the last one was 65 million years ago, so we have another 3 million years to go. If we haven't got starships by then theres something wrong.

Re:Bad science (1)

murdocj (543661) | more than 5 years ago | (#29269253)

You're not supposed to inject reality into the "omg killer asteroids are coming" discussion.

Well, possibly. (1)

sam_vilain (33533) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268455)

But the thing is you still need a store of special matter for those ion thrusters to eject, even though they're ejecting it at high velocity. And it's probably harder to store that matter than a 10T chunk of whatever you can commandeer in space, even though you might be solar powering the drive itself. What you're suggesting would be a good "first stage", useful for moving a relatively small object (perhaps there are some at the La Grange spots) into an orbit slightly different to that of the impact asteroid, so you don't have to launch that mass into space. At which point, I'd suspect there are some tricks you can use to deflect the energy of the impact asteroid into a slightly different orbit, effectively using the large weight as a "ballast" and the interception weight as a "sail", with the gravity between the objects the "mast".

ie, you might get a lot more total delta-V of the combined objects compared to the delta-V you expend with thrusters to adjust the interception vessel occasionally, due to the profile of the combined shape through the space-time slope at that point.

Re:Bad science (4, Informative)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268773)

I'm curious what it being weaker than the weak and strong nuclear forces and the electromagnetic forces has to do with it. If the design works, it works. I'm curious to see your equations if you think it won't work. Also gravity is the only purely attractive force, and the one thats hardest to explain, which is why we really pay attention to it.

The advantage of a gravity tractor is that you don't have to land, because landing is a *VERY* hard problem on an asteroid. The biggest problem is that its very difficult to latch on, since you can't rely on gravity to hold you in place. Since you don't hae a good idea of the surface before you arrive, its rather difficult to design a solution thats going to work for all the different possibilities.

This leads one to consider how can you manage to deflect an asteroid without landing, and a gravity tractor is an obvious elegant solution. Note also that in this case you're still using the vaunted ion thrusters to impart the force on the asteroid. Considering the spacecraft and asteroid as two separate systems you have to use the thrust to maintain your standoff distance; considering them as one system (my preferred analysis), you have the thrusters moving the whole system, with internal gravity keeping the whole thing together. The only difference between it and landing, as far as thrust is concerned, is that you are limited to a maximum thrust by the gravity bond: the same sized ion thruster on a landed spacecraft and on a gravity tractor will have exactly the same effect.

The only time it would make sense to land is if you wanted to do a very high-thrust chemical burn (or maybe something like VASMIR, which would only be in the emergency case. Of course, in that case, the costs become irrelevant ($50B for a mission or wiping out Europe isn't a hard decision to make) and you're more likely to seek to impart a maximum impulse by doing a high-risk/high-reward method such as a kinetic impactor or nuke (and multiples as backup).

Re:Bad science (1)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 5 years ago | (#29269027)

An irregular surface wouldn't be that difficult to deal with, and your own thrust would keep you on the surface. If the asteroid is really a rubble pile that could be an issue though. Or if it's rotating at a significant rate. Initially I was thinking that the gravitational link would only result in thrust limitation, but after reading parent I realize that it would overcome some significant difficulties.

Re:Bad science (1)

iron spartan (1192553) | more than 5 years ago | (#29269595)

A gravity tractor sounds good in theory, but how do you propose to move something that has enough mass to shift the path of a asteroid a significant amount?

Two 75 ton steel spheres placed an inch apart have an attractive force about the weight of a mosquito. 150 tons is about half the mass of the international space station.

So how massive would a gravity tractor have to be to deflect a small, 1 ton asteroid if it has to be even 1 foot away from the asteroid? And how much fuel would it take to place it next to a small asteroid approaching at 15,000 kph? After that, how much fuel would it take to get it back so it could be used again?

Re:Bad science (3, Informative)

ppanon (16583) | more than 5 years ago | (#29269099)

The problem is that a number of the objects of interest
  1. may be particulate agglomerations that aren't solid enough to have something push at them,
  2. are likely to be spinning, so that you would first need to stop their spin, otherwise see this [howstuffworks.com]
  3. are likely to be of irregular shape and mass distribution that would make it difficult to push them efficiently in the direction you want without getting unwanted spin resulting.

Sure you could solve each of these problems individually, but a gravity tug bypasses them all at once, at the expense of needing either

  1. more time to operate
  2. a larger attractive mass requiring more energy to move both it and the target object

Probably the cheapest solution would be to refine a good sized nickel-iron asteroid into a compact solid metal mass and then attach a solar sail for thrust. Bonus points for compressing the metal mass into neutronium compressed by a diamond shell.

The only question is.... (1)

popo (107611) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268017)

Smart Bomb or Hyperspace?

Re:The only question is.... (2, Funny)

alexborges (313924) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268391)

Those technologies don't even exist.

We should get some psychics and move it by telekinesis, duh.

Re:The only question is.... (2, Informative)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268863)

Don't worry, the time travelers will give us the technology JUST IN TIME.

First things first. (3, Insightful)

AltGrendel (175092) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268019)

We need to take care of the Yellowstone Caldera [wikipedia.org] first. I think that's more likely to erupt before an asteroid hits.

Not necessarily (4, Informative)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268217)

99942 Apophis will make a near pass to Earth in 2029. However, if it passes within a narrow window, called the keyhole, the Earth's (and Moon's) gravity will deflect it such as to place it on a direct Earth impact in 2036. Now this isn't all that likely to happen, but it is possible. Worth having some contingency plans for at least.

Re:Not necessarily (4, Interesting)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268321)

2036 is awfully close to the end of UNIX time, maybe it is a prophecy of the end ;-]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_2038_problem [wikipedia.org]

Re:Not necessarily (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29268669)

Sometimes, you need to create a problem to solve another.

Warm regards,
Yahweh

Re:Not necessarily (2, Informative)

Exception Duck (1524809) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268583)

This should scare some people.
I actually don't recommend reading this if you obsess about things.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risks_to_civilization,_humans_and_planet_Earth [wikipedia.org]

For the rest - have fun and sweet dreams.

Re:Not necessarily (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268881)

Screw the asteroids! Just give me a fricking red button.
- Dr. Evil

Re:Not necessarily (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29268789)

> a direct Earth impact in 2036

Hey! If I live the statistical average lifespan of a US male, I will die in 2036. I wonder if that's somehow related.

Re:Not necessarily (4, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268837)

Apophis will make a near pass to Earth in 2029.

Must be a mistake. The Goa'uld already tried that back in 2002 ... we used a hyperspace generator to jump the rock around Earth. Worked like a charm too, although it was a bit touch-and-go there for a bit. In any event, Apophis is only a false god. A dead false god.

Re:Not necessarily (2, Informative)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 5 years ago | (#29269045)

Correction: through, not around.

Re:Not necessarily (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#29269239)

Correction: through, not around.

I don't think you can successfully pick that nit, given that the rock was transferred via hyperspace. Besides, had it gone through the Earth, there'd have been one goddamn big hole in our home planet.

Re:Not necessarily (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29269681)

We can afford to lose a billion or so people. Bring it on!

Re:First things first. (4, Insightful)

Opyros (1153335) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268529)

Sure, but at least we have some idea what to do about an asteroid impact. How would we prepare for a supervolcano? The only way to survive is by being somewhere else when it erupts.

Re:First things first. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29268905)

Well, first thing that comes to mind is fields of geothermal plants.
Downsides are:
1) Ruins landscape
2) Ruins tourism
3) Potential chance of causing a low temperature "point" and causing eruption, almost as if you poked a hole in a balloon.
4) Even more heat being pumped in to the atmosphere indirectly via electrical equipment, or lost due to lack or storage.

In fact, that is the only thing i can think of, the others are unlikely going to work or entirely infeasible.

Re:First things first. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29268719)

You mean SCO Linux?

Re:First things first. (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268833)

Can't we do both at once?

My backgrounds in space mission design, not geology.. pretty sure the cost to benefit ratio is going to show I'm better off working on asteroid deflection while the geologist down the street gets to work looking at mitigating supervolcanoes. And of course the automotive engineers over there on the other side of town are probably best off developing newer, more efficient cars, and my friends in aerodynamics should working on more efficient aircraft and better wind turbines.

Lots of problems in the world, but also lots of people with lots of different skills

Re:First things first. (1)

internettoughguy (1478741) | more than 5 years ago | (#29269013)

Taupo's [wikipedia.org] worse, last time that shit went off the Romans saw it.

Ask Ed Logg? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29268049)

He knows something about Asteroids.

What could go wrong. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29268077)

Competition, not coordination, in attempting to stop asteroids from ending all life on Earth. What could go wrong...

Meanwhile, in an East Texas courtroom...
Dr. Cordey: Your honor, I'd like to file an injunction to prevent NASA from using their gravity tractor to stop the asteroid that will impact Earth next week.
NASA: This patent is ridiculous. They don't have their own working gravity tractor. They aren't even trying to build one. All of their ideas in their patent come from working with NASA and the ESA.
Dr. Cordey: We don't have our own gravity tractor, but we are working with the ESA to build one. It should be done in a year or two.
NASA: Everyone on the planet will be killed next week. We have to be permitted to stop the asteroid.
Judge: I'm going to allow the injunction. You can appeal it within 60 days if you like. Without patents protection, all we have is chaos. We can't make an exception here just because it suits us.
1 week later: BOOOOOOOOM.

15 years to prepare? (1)

planckscale (579258) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268125)

The time required to make this work seems too long to be practical. I would think we'd have a year at most to find an asteroid on a collision course. Furthermore, I think we should concentrate our efforts on finding the rocks that are a threat.

I've always thought it would be best to use some kind of propulsion system to help move the asteroid in it's same direction causing it to overshoot us. Trying to change it's current vector or trajectory seems like it would be wasting energy.

Re:15 years to prepare? (2, Interesting)

LandGator (625199) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268203)

A year? A year? With 2008_TC3, we had twenty hours. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_TC3 [wikipedia.org] We need an Project Orion ship http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_(nuclear_propulsion) [wikipedia.org] , an Archangel Michael design http://www.up-ship.com/apr/michael.htm [up-ship.com] to shove the next Dinosaur Killer Rock out of the way.

Re:15 years to prepare? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#29269429)

For many impactors up to about the size of The Foot it is enough to know exactly where and when they will impact. For objects bigger than that (Lucifers Hammer) is may be easier to move people off the planet than changing the trajectory of the impactor.

Missile Command? (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268137)

Seems like they could make some kind of game, and have people play that game to control the missiles that shoot down asteroids threatening cities.

(Ok, so that is a combination of Ender's Game and Missile Command)

Asteroids? (1)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268201)

Seems like they could make some kind of game, and have people play that game to control the space-ship that shoots asteroids.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asteroids_(video_game) [wikipedia.org]

Simple Solution (0)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268163)

This idea is donated to the FSF and is subject to GPL Version 2: Most ideas with dealing with asteroids attempt a form of thrust vectoring. A simpler solution than most is to add mass to the asteroid to change its orbit without blowing it apart. This can be done in various ways but one is to blast it with a water cannon from an accompanying space ship which will cause vectoring and add mass in the form of snow which will result in a change in orbit without the danger of breaking the object into a hailstorm of smaller objects.

Re:Simple Solution (2, Insightful)

alexborges (313924) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268417)

now how are we gonna get a gazillion tons of water all the way to the asteroid?

Re:Simple Solution (1)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 5 years ago | (#29269069)

Changing the mass of an object will not alter it's orbital trajectory unless that mass is significant enough to act gravitationally on the body (or bodies) that it's orbiting. The impetus from hitting it with high-velocity water would provide thrust, like how a firehose pushes people back, but it would be far less efficient than an ion thruster.

Re:Simple Solution (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 5 years ago | (#29269225)

Burning it with a solid state laser to cause out gassing would be simpler and lighter, plus it could also be used on smaller items like space junk.

Red lighted (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268181)

British Company Takes Lead To Stop Asteroids

Thank God! That was such a stupid idea to base a movie on that game [slashdot.org] .

Gotta find them first (4, Insightful)

iron spartan (1192553) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268229)

All this relies on finding said asteroid years if not decades out.

I can't confirm, but I remember hearing that between NASA and all the other space agencies we track less than 20% of space inside of Jupiter's orbit. A large dark asteroid out of the Kuiper Belt could be closing on us right now and we wouldn't see it until months before impact, too late to do anything about it.

IMHO, lets work on finding and tracking large asteroids first.

Re:Gotta find them first (1)

LandGator (625199) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268889)

{snip} IMHO, lets work on finding and tracking large asteroids first.

Agreed. However, http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/programs/ [nasa.gov] shows ten programs looking for Near-Earth Objects, including a joint Italio-German program and a Japanese project. Despite all of those, 2008_TC3 got within 20 hours of earth before detection. Had its composition been different, its 2 KT explosion would have been a ground burst. Scale the mass up by an order of magnitude, and we're talking Hiroshima. Its diameter and detectability need only be 3x larger, so detection within 60 hours before a town-buster arrives. Scale it up another order of magnitude, and we have less than a week to evacuate from a 200KT city-buster. What will your town look like when a mandatory evac order is declared?

CCTV (4, Funny)

ickleberry (864871) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268231)

Does this plan involve taking all of Britain's CCTV cameras and pointing them towards the sky?

Re:CCTV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29268835)

Only if there are knockers and knickers threatening the Earth.

Re:CCTV (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268841)

Does this plan involve taking all of Britain's CCTV cameras and pointing them towards the sky?

Yes indeed it does, thereby making one giant CCD imager.

what can go wrong? (0, Redundant)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268257)

what can go wrong?

Re:what can go wrong? (1)

ectotherm (842918) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268327)

"Our universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding, In all of the directions it can whiz; As fast as it can go, that's the speed of light, you know, Twelve million miles a minute and that's the fastest speed there is. So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure, How amazingly unlikely is your birth; And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere out in space, 'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth!" -- Eric Idle

Budgets cuts (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29268325)

Won't matter much if we can divert an asteroid if budget cuts cost us the ability to see it coming.

Re:Budgets cuts (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268865)

Won't matter much if we can divert an asteroid if budget cuts cost us the ability to see it coming.

Deep down, nobody really believes it will ever happen, especially Congress, which has no awareness of consequence anyway.

Kabooommmm (2, Funny)

Mojo01010011 (1337759) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268371)

What's wrong with the tried and tested method? If Armageddon and Deep impact have taught us everything, it's that sending an emotionally unstable group of astronauts with a bunch of nukes will save most of the world ... not all of it, but most! What's that 80/20 % rule?

I have a few questions... (1)

14erCleaner (745600) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268619)

How are they going to know that they need to deploy their "gravity tractor", if NASA's program to inform them is shut down? And are they going to hire Bruce Willis to drive it?

Re:I have a few questions... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268847)

And are they going to hire Bruce Willis to drive it?

No, Robert Duvall [wikipedia.org] .

Re:I have a few questions... (1)

Werkhaus (549466) | more than 5 years ago | (#29269507)

No, Robert Duvall [wikipedia.org] .

Or the Leningrad Cowboys [youtube.com] .

One stone, two birds... (2, Interesting)

pjt48108 (321212) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268653)

Here's an idea...

How many tons of launch debris do we dodge daily in orbit?

Why not collect it, and use its condensed and combined mass for such a "gravity tractor?"

Just asking...

Re:One stone, two birds... (5, Interesting)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268829)

Fuel. The debris occupies a huge volume, and to collect each piece, you have to spend enough time in an intersecting orbit for the piece to come to you.

I would rather use missiles (1)

tecnico.hitos (1490201) | more than 5 years ago | (#29268797)

I don't think lead would be effective enough. It would be very hard to fire a cannonball with enough precision to the necessary height.

Sunlight lensing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29269031)

Why not just send up a huge ass lens (or loads of smaller mirrors) and burn the side to propel it?

A solar melter would just be so much cooler. Why should we try kick its ass? Let the sun do it for us.

What about the flying saucers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29269215)

It's short-sighted of anyone to put all this effort into asteroid defense without taking into account the waves of flying saucers that are sure to follow.

Brits. Thank you. (1)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 5 years ago | (#29269387)

I'm glad to see that someone is taking real threats and problems for *all of us* more seriously than petty disagreements about improvable beings/entities and hoarding shit daily.

Thanks for being the first to be serious about it.

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