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NASA Making Plans To Save the Earth

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the deep-armageddon dept.

226

aluminumangel writes, "Taking a page out of a Michael Bay movie, NASA is considering a manned mission to land on an asteroid, 'poke one with a stick,' and see how feasible it would be to deflect it from its course. Obviously, the application would be valuable in a doomsday situation and hopefully could keep us from going wherever the dinosaurs went." The article makes oblique reference to another goal such a mission could serve: giving us something to do in space, something to engage the paying public, between the time we return to the Moon and the time we get to Mars.

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there are more important things going on (-1, Offtopic)

thechronic (892545) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901796)

TomKat are getting married, who cares about potential asteroids http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/people_holmes_dress/ [yahoo.com]

Re:there are more important things going on (1, Offtopic)

VoltageX (845249) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901838)

I love how my post got Offtopic but the parent didn't.

Re:there are more important things going on (0, Offtopic)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902040)

TomKat are getting married...

On the one hand, they already married earlier this week. On the other hand, this story is a dupe from earlier this week so it all evens out.

Cue stupid Aerosmith song (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901802)

If this means finally launching Ben Affleck into space, I'm all for it.

Re:Cue stupid Aerosmith song (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16902264)

i love how this is modded "interesting." can moderation be modded +1 funny?

Obligatory? (0, Offtopic)

VoltageX (845249) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901804)

I for one, welcome our new asteroid poking overlords.
In Soviet Russia, asteroid pokes you!
Only old people poke asteroids.

Re:Obligatory? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16902042)

After I pull out of your ass, I want to insert my semen-laced shit coated dick into your mouth.

Re:Obligatory? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16902192)

American components. Russian components. All made in Taiwan!

Trust Man (-1, Troll)

mulhollandj (807571) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901806)

I have seen what man can and cannot do. I place my trust in God.

Re:Trust Man (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901842)

Obligatory:

Man created beer.
God created pot.

Benjamin Franklin (0, Troll)

Zonk (troll) (1026140) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902058)

"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

Re:Trust Man (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901860)

There are some who take responsibility for the world that they live in and others who just hope that everything will work out. Good on those in column a, for those in column b just do everyone a favour and don't get in the way. BTW I think it is worth mentioning that we are likely to kill each other long before an asteroid wipes us out but hey, better safe than sorry right?

Re:Trust Man (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901876)

Then you will get what you deserve.

Re:Trust Man (1)

Magdalen5751 (1029212) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901980)

That's what I say about Homeland security. It's the same thing-just a differnt scale. The lack of faith has realtivity. The best one yet: In God we trust on all that smelly, stinky green crap we need to get these projects done. I don't think God will let that equation work.

Re:Trust Man (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16902038)

Hail Satan!

Landing words part 2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901812)

I already made the obligatory StarWars comment in the earlier topic about this one, but here it is again for all you Star Wars virgins out there...

First words on the assteroid:

"This is no cave !!"

I thought it said "save the earth" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901814)

whereby the best course of action was to let the asteroid hit us and destroy all humans....

I didn't realize it meant save the humans (for a short period of time) until they destroy themselves and everything with them.

They need to hurry (4, Funny)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901830)

They really need to hurry, Bruce Willis isn't getting any younger!

Re:They need to hurry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16902382)

Deja Vu?

Re:They need to hurry (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16902444)

Look at me I can steal comments from Another posting [slashdot.org] too. I am SOOO original.

Get a job FAG!!!

- Wolf Bearclaw

Re:They need to hurry (0, Offtopic)

icedcool (446975) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902466)

DUUPE JOKE! Poor man... poor.

This could be useful... (5, Interesting)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901832)

If we can good at altering asteroid's paths, we could use near earth asteroids as ramming tools. We should ram a few into the same spot on Mars and get a nice deep crater. We get practice diverting asteroids and learn more about deeper martain soil.

Re:This could be useful... (2, Insightful)

Memnos (937795) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902052)

Perhaps more useful might be steering comets. It's a bigger challenge but they have lots of H2O

Re:This could be useful... (1)

lordvalrole (886029) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902054)

Or we can send some people to go live on Mars. First we should build a lunar base and use that a starting point to travel deeper into space. It takes so much fuel and so much energy to leave earth's atmosphere that sending people out into space is not cost effective. It would cost less to lets say launch a ship from the moon than it would be from the earth. We can go much further and at a faster pace if we first built a base. From there you can start sending actual people out to places like Mars. Granted those people would be spending a lot of their life time on a ship to get there and either setup base there or setup a midway point between us and mars. What anything really comes down to funding something like this. Although we do spend $300+ billion on wars so you would think if we put that much money to R & D in physics, biology, chemistry, technology, etc. we would be much better off. I am looking at long term outcomes here. 20-30-50-100 years away. Eventually oil and other resources will become scarce so where is humanity going to turn to next? Eventually we will need to start funding space programs so we can take advantage of other planets around us.

Eventually we get to a place like we see in Battlestar Galactica. It really is about where the money goes. If we can land on Mars we can do a lot more than sending probs out.

Re:This could be useful... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16902146)

There is a rock halfway between here & japan called Midway. You may have heard of it.

I propose that we build a seaport on Midway to make it easier to get to Japan.

That is roughly analogous to putting a base on the Moon as means to get to Mars.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Re:This could be useful... (1)

Hawkxor (693408) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902186)

Control of midway WAS in fact crucial during WWII, I'm not sure what you're driving at..

Not really (3, Insightful)

phorm (591458) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902278)

Deflecting something from a particular course is likley a lot easier than setting it on to a specific new course. All you need is a big enough push (or bigger) to ensure it missing hitting (for example) Earth. Now to have it hit a particular target, you would need much more exact placing and timing of an explosion/rocket/etc.

Better Idea (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901848)

Redirect an asteroid into a collision course with Redmond, WA.

Re:Better Idea (0, Troll)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901946)

Hey, there's some good stuff [google.com] in Redmond.

(Mods, click link before modding Troll.)

Apparently... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16902368)

Monkeyboy has mod points...

Suck my balls.

Don't comets obey the laws of physics??? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901854)

I'm a fan of space and staying busy till the end times come, don't get me wrong, but what can poking a comet tell us that we wouldn't be able to figure out using the known laws of physics and, you know, science and stuff....

Re:Don't comets obey the laws of physics??? (4, Funny)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901862)

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice.

In practice, however......

Re:Don't comets obey the laws of physics??? (1)

Majik Sheff (930627) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901972)

Comment noted for future sig...

Re:Don't comets obey the laws of physics??? (1)

Shadyman (939863) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902030)

Quoth Jan L. A. van de Snepscheut

Re:Don't comets obey the laws of physics??? (5, Insightful)

guardiangod (880192) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902372)

Scientific method -

1. Define the question
2. Gather information and resources
3. Form hypothesis
4. Perform experiment and collect data
5. Analyze data
6. Interpret data and draw conclusions that serve as a starting point for new hypotheses
7. Publish results

Without collecting data, all you get is something akin to String Theory - could be true, could be false, no one knows.

Look for... (1, Insightful)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901866)

...lots of big companies to get LOTS of money from NASA and the U.S. military for developing more and more technologies that won't actually be used at all in any flights to the moon or mars. I also expect to see either no flight to Mars, or one that falls far short of what is being planned today at best. At worst I expect to see quite a few lost lives within the first five to ten flights to/from Mars. Why? Because I expect that most of the money is going to be spent on developing PROFITABLE (here on Earth) technologies that will only have a very loose connection to the missions. This is just a huge money grab and not about the advancement of science or discovery.

Quick everyone... (-1, Offtopic)

eln (21727) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901872)

Grab all of the +5 comments from the previous thread [slashdot.org] for cheap karma before it's too late.

Re:Quick everyone... (1)

alfs boner (963844) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901900)

Power is anything but cheap, especially in space.

A decent ion engine, such as the one which powered Deep Space 1, required most of the spacecraft's 2.4 kW of power, and that was to get a 500kg craft around.

Ion drive thrust increases with power input. So, in order to move an asteroid about within our lifetimes you're probably going to need several football fields of panels, not to mention either a large number of actual engines, or a new breed of them. (And try getting all that to the asteroid in the first place).

The whole benefit of ion engines is that you require less fuel on your spacecraft due to higher isp. If you can figure out how to use materials on the asteroid for chemical rockets, do it.. if you don't, you're still going to be pushing that mass with an ion engine anyway.

Re:Quick everyone... (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902082)

cheap karma

      Karma is only important to you because you don't have any.

Re:Quick everyone... (-1, Troll)

Zonk (troll) (1026140) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902380)

For all of you slashdot readers who have plenty of time on your hands, here is an excellent book on why going to the asteroids should be one of, if not THE, priorities of the manned space program. Although I haven't read it since I was young(er) I still remember it fondly as being one of my great inspirations for space travel. The ease of getting there (it is energetically easier to get to a Near Earth Orbit asteroid than going to the moon!), the resources available there (iron asteroids = lots of metals, icy asteroids/comets = water and volatiles, carbonaceous = building materials) and the potential for discovery/experience in deep space travel are covered in this fascinating book. It made a compelling case, without resort to more speculative ideas such as orbital habitats a la L-5, for why this is our logical next step after the moon.

Of course the book was written before Luiz Alvarez proposed that asteroids likely were responsible for mass extinctions. However since that justification for travelling to the asteroids has been discussed endlessly I don't think the omission hurts this book.

If you can find this book (I'm sure it's been out of print for decades) and have the time to read it, please do, It will help restore the feeling of endless possibilities that some of us had about space travel when we were young.

"Islands in Space: The Challenge of the Planetoids" Donald Cox and Dandridge Cole

Get you insightful replies... (3, Informative)

jginspace (678908) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901878)

...from the original [slashdot.org]

In addition to (1)

SuperStretchy (1018064) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901884)

Good addendum to the article here [slashdot.org] . While they have very similar titles, they offer vastly different reasons for this landing. Justification for each other? Maybe just a good way to kill two birds with one stone.

A practice quiz saving the world might serve us better if there ever is a final exam.

You're either a 1 or a 0. Alive or Dead.

Armageddon wouldn't even be close. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901886)

As an exercise for my high-school physics students studying energy and momentum conservation, I had them run the numbers on the scenario from the movie "Armageddon" for an asteroid "the size of Texas", taking this to mean in separate cases the area of Texas with a range of densities, etc.

Giving the astronauts every benefit of the doubt (able to intercept it twice as far out as they did in the movie, bomb able to be placed at the center of mass, the bomb having ten times the yield of largest nuke ever exploded by man, perfectly elastic explosion, etc. etc. etc.) they not only couldn't make the asteroid miss the Earth, they would only have changed impact points by about a meter!

I love sci-fi movies and like to give my students problems from popular films that illustrate the absurdity of Hollywood stories.

Re:Armageddon wouldn't even be close. (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902034)

the bomb having ten times the yield of largest nuke ever exploded by man,

      Not to mention the simple fact that most of the destructive power of a nuclear weapon is actually caused by a wave-front of superheated air moving away from the center of the blast. Air is something quite scarce in space, however. You can't impart such kinetic energy to rock, however. Oh you could probably melt the center of this rock, but it would just cool again. Or you could shatter it, and have lots of tiny asteroids heading in exactly the same direction. E = 1/2mv^2, and E is also =1/2(m1+m2+...m(n))v^2. It doesn't make any difference to the total energy that's going to smack the earth and rip the atmosphere to shreds. This is one thing Hollywood has dead wrong.

Re:Armageddon wouldn't even be close. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16902090)

Interesting, but remember these are idealized conditions and a HIGH-SCHOOL physics class. The guy/gal sounds like a good teacher just trying to make things interesting for his kids.

Re:Armageddon wouldn't even be close. (1)

bberens (965711) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902164)

Ahh, but if you could break it up into a billion tiny pieces you're increasing the surface area. A larger percentage of the mass will burn up in the atmosphere and/or be deflected away.

Re:Armageddon wouldn't even be close. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16902392)

And what exactly do you think all that thermal energy from the mass "burning up" will do to the surface?

Re:Armageddon wouldn't even be close. (1)

guardiangod (880192) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902410)

burn up in the atmosphere

Yes! Through the friction between the atmosphere and the rocks, the temperature could reach over hundred of millions of Kevin and start nuclear fusion right in the comfort of the earth's atmosphere!

Jesus.

and/or be deflected away.

Can someone else take a shot at this? I am busy banging my head against my desk.
In all seriousness though, you could deflect some of the pieces off if you can change the velocity of the pieces after you blew them off. But not with the atmosphere...

Re:Armageddon wouldn't even be close. (3, Informative)

guardiangod (880192) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902426)

Perhaps I should explain this without resorting to the use of sarcasm - they are popular misconceptions, after all.

An asteroid, moving through space, has velocity (relatively to the earth) 5 - 20 km/s. Now, most of the earth's atmosphere is about 5 km thick (the rest are light elements scattered in the exosphere). That means it takes
less than a second
for any asteroid to get though the earth's atmosphere! This is the reason why meteoroids are below freezing (instead of glowing red hot) after they landed on earth - they don't have time to heat up through friction.

Second of all, impact cratering is calculated by the kinetic energy of the asteroid. Size means jack. Which means that as long as the most of the things landed on earth, we get craters.

What all these means is unless you can blow up the asteroid in such a way that they are smaller than your garden's peddles, they will still hit earth. Can fusion bomb do that?

Re:Armageddon wouldn't even be close. (1)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902280)

The difference with having thousands of tiny asteroids is that due to the incresed surface area, they would burn up in the atmosphere. Likewise, once the tiny asteroids break apart, they're doing to drift in various directions, resulting in a much wider area of impact.

This, I think, would be survivable (never mind the improbability of an asteroid "the size of texas")

Re:Armageddon wouldn't even be close. (2, Funny)

dangitman (862676) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902074)

What if you used a really big ball of garbage?

Re:Armageddon wouldn't even be close. (1)

Nanpa (971527) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902230)

But where are you going to get garbage? You don't just find it lying on the streets of Manhatten...

Re:Armageddon wouldn't even be close. (2, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902240)

As an exercise for my high-school physics students studying energy and momentum conservation, I had them run the numbers on the scenario from the movie "Armageddon" for an asteroid "the size of Texas", taking this to mean in separate cases the area of Texas with a range of densities, etc.
 
Giving the astronauts every benefit of the doubt (able to intercept it twice as far out as they did in the movie, bomb able to be placed at the center of mass, the bomb having ten times the yield of largest nuke ever exploded by man, perfectly elastic explosion, etc. etc. etc.) they not only couldn't make the asteroid miss the Earth, they would only have changed impact points by about a meter!

Actually - that's pretty sad to hear. Because it means however many classes you've 'taught' this material now go forth into the world more ignorant of asteroid diversion as they were when they came into your classroom. Why? Because you've utterly mislead them about how it works, as your brief description above contains multiple errors.
 
Your first error - it matters very much when you apply the differential force. Sure, doing it at the last moment won't move the impact point much - duh. In real life, you perform the diversion months, or years before the impact - and orbital mechanics dictates that it doesn't actually take much force (proportionally) to make a huge difference in the impact point over time.
 
The second error is that you don't bury the bomb in the asteroid - you detonate it at a point some distance over the asteroid. (Why? We'll see that in the next error.)
 
Lastly the size of the bomb on Earth is nearly irrelevant. The effects of the bomb that we interpret as yield are a direct result of the interaction of the energy (various forms of radiation) released from the bomb with the atmosphere. This is why, by the way, you detonate the bomb away from the asteroid, that energy now interacts with the surface of the asteroid across a broad area - evaporating it and providing the thrust (via Newton's 3rd law) as the evaporated material moves away from the asteroid. (Probably using a bomb with a shaped case to direct the X-rays from the bomb towards the asteroid, much like an Orion [wikipedia.org] pulse unit. Or you could use such a pulse unit directly.)
 
 
I love sci-fi movies and like to give my students problems from popular films that illustrate the absurdity of Hollywood stories.

At least in this example - I would not be too proud. You've merely substituted your own absurdity for Hollywood's.

Re:Armageddon wouldn't even be close. (2, Insightful)

aevan (903814) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902416)

Your first error - it matters very much when you apply the differential force. Sure, doing it at the last moment won't move the impact point much - duh. In real life, you perform the diversion months, or years before the impact - and orbital mechanics dictates that it doesn't actually take much force (proportionally) to make a huge difference in the impact point over time.

The second error is that you don't bury the bomb in the asteroid - you detonate it at a point some distance over the asteroid. (Why? We'll see that in the next error.),


Which has what to do with them burying a nuke 800 meters under the surface (as per the movie), detonating it less than a month out? He's modeling the movie, where it starts off only 18 days away from impact...so lessen the time window by the training,travel etc the rest of the movie showed. They used oil drillers to drill down for the bomb placement...

The flaws you point in his example however are the flaws they made in the movie. You said he's doing it wrong, ergo the movie did it wrong, which was his point?

Why so large? (2, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902338)

There was an article on Slashdot a while back on a new crater discovered in Antarctica. It was a couple hundred miles across and was believed associated in some way to the Great Extinction. Well, there's a neat website that lets you calculate the size of crater and damage done for a given size of asteroid. It took a while to find one that would produce the crater observed that would have a combination of speed and size that would leave anything left alive at all, let alone 5%-10% of the biomass.


My crude reverse-engineering of the asteroid suggests that it would have to have been moving very very slowly compared to the Earth, and be about 50 miles across. Even so, the calculator predicted that anything within the horizon of such an impact would be instantly vaporized and that the entire hemisphere would be subject to earth tremors of magnitude 11.2 or above. That was about the smallest-scale devastation I could find that would produce the right-sized crater.


(Faster asteroids would be smaller, for the same-sized crater, but end up releasing much more energy, as energy goes up with the square of the velocity.)


Now, turning an asteroid (or comet) is plausible, but it has to be done early. You say you can only achieve a meter or so, but in reality that doesn't mean anything. You change the trajectory, and the change of displacement is then the distance the asteroid travels divided by the tangent of the angle between the original path and the new path. (The tangent is equal to the opposite over the adjacent - SOH CAH TOA. You make the adjacent the line it would originally have followed and the opposite becomes the displacement.) Objects travelling along a curved trajectory need to be mapped into a linear system first, which is usually a very simple transform.


So how does this help? Well, since you are changing an angle, the implication is that if you increase the distance away you make this change, you will increase the displacement from the original position. If the change in displacement exceeds the Earth's radius plus the safety margin needed to prevent the Earth's gravity from causing the collision to occur anyway, then it makes bugger all difference if you can make one degree of change or one billionth of a second of a degree. All that matters is that the cumulative change places the body outside the danger zone.


What does this mean in practice? In practice, it means that if it's just about to collide, there is nothing you can do to stop it and there are few structures in the world capable of withstanding 11.2 magnitude tremors. Evacuating the hemisphere and placing everyone on a geologically-sound plateau would be far cheaper and would have a much better chance of success. Near-zero, as opposed to absolutely zero.


If the body is unlikely to collide for a couple of orbits and a few hundred years, then you can talk about serious landscaping the solar system. That's the kind of distance where even a small angle will make a large difference. Better yet, gravity is vastly more powerful than any explosion - if you can shift the orbit just enough to place the body close to a large planet, the total deflection will vastly exceed anything explosives can achieve. Gravity is a significant force on these scales.


This all assumes that the body is solid, of course. The Japanese robot probe that landed on an asteroid not too long ago found a nearby asteroid whose density was unimaginably low - it is likely to be nothing more than space grit held together with collective gravitational attraction where the packing is no better - and probably worse - than coarse-grain sand. It could be said that its structure is best described as sheer damn luck. You fire off a nuke on something like that and there's no telling what will happen, other than most of the energy will go straight through it. At this point, we simply don't have anything like a large enough catalog of asteroids, nor in anything like sufficient detail, to know if this is a freak accident or the norm. Until you know enough of the basics, you can't know anything about the complexities.

Death (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901890)

hopefully could keep us from going wherever the dinosaurs went.

Wherever the dinosaurs went, you'll eventually go at some point in your life. I don't think a person setting foot on some random rock will change that.

Weaponized! (4, Insightful)

plopez (54068) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901896)

If you can divert it, you can steer it. If you can steer it you can target an area on the planet.

Take out a major city, no radiation. Just the threat would be a useful tool of terror and control.

Re:Weaponized! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901996)

haha..

Re:Weaponized! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16902000)

No, no, no. It would only be used against terrorists.

Re:Weaponized! (1)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902018)

Huge amount of fallout though, non radioactive, but not localized at all.

Re:Weaponized! (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902190)

true. Picking the right size and composition would have to be worked out.

Re:Weaponized! (1)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902220)

Really though, its had to be accurate, you could maybe pick a state to hit.

Re:Weaponized! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16902026)

That would be impossible to time correctly, though, as you'd have no control over the velocity and possible fragmentation, and no abort option when your calculations are off by a fraction. And the target (presumably a nation) might see it coming more than a mile away and have time to retaliate or shoot the rest of us just for fun - I would, anyway.

Re:Weaponized! (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902150)

Good points, but given time and a few experiments:
1) figure out what sort of 'roid would work best. Look to minimize fragmentation.

2) the math could probably be worked. I mean, the entry window for the shuttle is very narrow but we have obsolete guidance computers that can work out the angle of descent and attack.

3) You probably would use a smaller 'roid as you would not want to destroy an entire region.

4) It would be most useful against nations w/o nukes.

5) The lack of abort option is a concern, but given enough thrust it could be diverted until close in. I sure they would be a 'point of no return' though.

Re:Weaponized! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16902252)

Smaller asteroid size = more precision needed and the atmosphere will have a greater impact on it in the final stages (shuttle is still a piloted effort all the way through, I think).

Perhaps increasing the velocity and shaping the asteroid somehow may work to cut the 'atmospheric bounce angle', but this type of manufacturing might leave a trail of evidence.

Re:Weaponized! (2, Interesting)

Shihar (153932) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902274)

If you want to destroy a city, just carpet bomb it. Blowing up cities is easy. The point is that any nation that has the ability to move an asteroid (read that as the US, the US, and the US) already has the ability to wipe out cities at will. At the stupidly insane cost of moving an asteroid, you might as well just build a few thousand cruise missiles and level the city that way. The only use moving asteroids has is for mining purposes and throwing at planets in an effort to drop some water on it (and even then, you probably want to use a comet).

Re:Weaponized! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16902328)

Actually, I think it would cost very little because these asteroids would have a near-Earth orbit for a while anyway (trailing Earth). Otherwise, it would require an impossible amount of power to nudge them. So getting to them might not cost that much and the thing to nudge it could be cheap too. I like the paint-bomb method the most - the sun would do the nudging then - but that method may not yield enough control or precision.

In mafia terms, the goal is to "make it look like an accident" (wipe out North Korea's capital, for example).

Re:Weaponized! (4, Insightful)

Xiroth (917768) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902306)

On the other hand, if you could steer it into Earth's orbit you might be able to mine a ridiculous amount of valuable material from it. As someone interested in orbital megastructures, this is one of the big steps. Of course, there's a few more - see if these don't sound like interesting challenges:
  1. Finding some way to extract the ore.
  2. Getting a refinary set up in space.
  3. Creating construction robots that can use the processed materials to build the structure.

Should be interesting if/when someone tries this.

Re:Weaponized! (3, Funny)

Skidge (316075) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902310)

Take out a major city, no radiation. Just the threat would be a useful tool of terror and control.


Shhh. Don't say things like that, or they won't let us take our asteroids on airplanes anymore.

Re:Weaponized! (1)

Wellington Grey (942717) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902438)

Take out a major city, no radiation. Just the threat would be a useful tool of terror and control.


Who would spend billions of dollars to divert a rock in space (with all the uncertanty that goes with it) to attack a country when they could spend vastly less and do a better job with conventional weapons? I mean, besides the brain bugs? Want to know more? [wikipedia.org]

-Grey [wellingtongrey.net]

Itsatrap! (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901910)

If ever a story deserved an "itsatrap" tag, this story is one of them. Who can say what the result would be? It could have unintended consequences.

I hope they pick a small asteroid to test on.

Why send people? (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901918)

Moving an asteroid means landing an engine on the thing and firing it. That doesn't require people. If you send people, you have to send all that extra mass for life support, a return vehicle, and return fuel. Which cuts into the fuel for moving the asteroid. So sending people is a lose.

Re:Why send people? (4, Funny)

Hooya (518216) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901956)

except, without people, you wouldn't get to have tearjerker bravery/sacrifice with "don't want to miss a thing" playing in the background.

Re:Why send people? (2, Insightful)

phantomcircuit (938963) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902024)

Humans are infinitely re-programmable.

Re:Why send people? (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902100)

I think you misspelled "expendable."

Am I the only one that doesn't care (0, Troll)

Adult film producer (866485) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901928)

Let this rock disintegrate into nothing. I'm convinced nothing good can come of this human experiment. Whoever or whatever set this up has failed, or maybe they've been proven right. Nevermind, it would be better if humans destroyed this god forsaken shithole and let the surviving crockroaches and worms start another era of magnificent evolution.

Re:Am I the only one that doesn't care (1)

focitrixilous P (690813) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902028)

The war on human life starts with your own, Adult film producer.

Re:Am I the only one that doesn't care (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16902202)

Re:Am I the only one that doesn't care

You care. If you didn't you wouldn't bother to post it. Now quit whining, and get on with your life.

Re:Am I the only one that doesn't care (4, Funny)

ComputerSherpa (813913) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902388)

Dude. First, take a deep breath. Then, go here [kittenbreak.com] and hit Refresh over and over until the bad feeling goes away. After that, take a walk in the woods, or go to church, or help out at a day-care or something. Life has meaning if you go look for it. :-)

thank god! (2, Funny)

TheWart (700842) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901948)

phew, I feel safer knowing that Michael Bay's movies are the blueprint for saving the world. At least I can rest easy tonight.

Worst Movie Ever! (2, Insightful)

necro81 (917438) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902114)

Leaving aside the horrible acting in Armaggedon, the portrayal of reality in that movie is atrocious! There are different levels of science fiction, requiring differing levels of suspended disbelief. It runs the gamut from Star Wars, where things like hyperdrive and lightsabers are somehow possible, to Star Trek, some of which could be possible in the 24th century, to 2001, which definitely could have taken place in 2001. This movie seems to exist somewhere inbetween - it wants to come off as being possible today, and yet requires a complete disposal of all scientific knowledge.

In college I took a course on science and communication - how we try, and often fail, to explain science and technology to the public. One homework assignment was to watch the movie Armaggedeon and describe the ways they get it wrong. The "it" here includes:

* physics (it actually takes days to go from earth to the moon - even then it took the Saturn V rocket to get the relatively small Apollo LM/CSM craft that far. Oh, and the old favorite, that there's lots of things to hear in space.),
* propulsion technology (the notion that a space station has a propulsion system capable of generating 1 g of continuous acceleration, or that the shuttle's engines can produce several g's of acceleration all on their own),
* engineering (that you could build a space station that wouldn't collapse under 1 g of acceleration),
* medicine (that space dementia is a likely condition, resulting in careless manslaughter behavior),
* probability (that out of the total surface of the earth, the only places that get struck are NYC, Paris, and Hong Kong (?)),
* astronomy (that, up close, asteroids seem to be made of very brittle stalagmites of rock, and spew radioactive-looking gas).

Science in general. This was a film seen by millions of people - it is probably the first thing most people think about when the subject of asteroids comes up. It's well for Carl Sagan that he was already deceased - the notion that such a movie existed would have killed him. Armaggedon's contemporary, Deep Impact, was more plausible and realistic, if you can get past Elija Wood being a teenager. Alas, it tanked.

I gave up after filling 10 pages with the first hour of the movie - it was too painful to continue.

Re:Worst Movie Ever! (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902262)

This migyt come as a shocker, but movies are generaly not real. If they are trying to be real, they tend to be documentaries. So get a life and some imagination.

That is the reason I watch movies, because they are NOT real.

Re:Worst Movie Ever! (1)

Nanpa (971527) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902270)

"Science in general. This was a film seen by millions of people - it is probably the first thing most people think about when the subject of asteroids comes up. It's well for Carl Sagan that he was already deceased - the notion that such a movie existed would have killed him. Armaggedon's contemporary, Deep Impact, was more plausible and realistic, if you can get past Elija Wood being a teenager. Alas, it tanked."

More plausible and realistic, maybe, but it tanked for good reason. That movie was equally as terrible, and I was distraught that Elijah Wood was still alive at the end.

Should have been done years ago (4, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901950)

FromTFA:

The proposals are at an early stage, and a spacecraft needed just to send an astronaut that far into space exists only on the drawing board

Actually the apollo stack (SM, CM, LM ascent and descent stages) had easily enough velocity budget to fly to and return from some near Earth asteroids. It didn't have the consumables to do it but that could have been launched separately. You get more redundancy that way.

Of course we don't have the apollo CM, which is the only spacecraft in existance which could make a high speed return from an asteroid and reenter the atmosphere, but we will have the CRV which should have similar capabilities. The saturn 5 launch system doesn't exist either and thats the part of this system which is really vapourware.

Anyway good luck to them. Mars has been held off for so long because it is so much more risky and difficult than the moon. Asteroids offer progressively harder challenges, minus the risk of sudden death landing a heavy vehicle on mars.

Re:Should have been done years ago (1)

triffid_98 (899609) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902208)

Does that even matter though? I mean, in order to divert a large mass the farther away you hit it, the less energy you need to use in order to get a miss. Assuming cryogenically frozen Bruce Willis isn't going to jump out of the lander and spike some nukes into the core, you'll get a lot more mileage out of an unmanned mission with additional fuel allowing for far greater impact velocity/range.

On a related note, has there been any progress on the problem of low-G muscle degeneration? This whole Space-1999 moonbase idea isn't likely to get a lot of traction until that's been fixed. That and actually providing some economic benefit, USA/etc. might be willing to throw cash at manned missions for bragging rights, but re-supply of a moon base isn't even in the same ballpark cost wise.

Actually the apollo stack (SM, CM, LM ascent and descent stages) had easily enough velocity budget to fly to and return from some near Earth asteroids. It didn't have the consumables to do it but that could have been launched separately. You get more redundancy that way. Of course we don't have the apollo CM, which is the only spacecraft in existance which could make a high speed return from an asteroid and reenter the atmosphere, but we will have the CRV which should have similar capabilities. The saturn 5 launch system doesn't exist either and thats the part of this system which is really vapourware. Anyway good luck to them. Mars has been held off for so long because it is so much more risky and difficult than the moon. Asteroids offer progressively harder challenges, minus the risk of sudden death landing a heavy vehicle on mars.

NASA planning to save the Earth (3, Insightful)

noigmn (929935) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902016)

Now all we need is an asteroid for them to save us from.

Re:NASA planning to save the Earth (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16902294)

Ask and ye shall receive! ---> 1999 AN10

Here's what you've all been waiting for.

Save the earth? (0, Offtopic)

no-body (127863) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902036)

Earth is save!
A couple of cleansing asteroids actually would not hurt getting rid of those little pests walking upright and haven't learned yet how to use their enlarged brains:



Subject: Holy Hell They've Gone Nuts - $160 billion More for Iraq!
http://www.fcnl.org/issues/item.php?item_id=2171&i ssue_id=35 [fcnl.org]
Fiscal 2007 War Supplemental Expected to Be Largest Yet:
Pentagon Prepares $160 Billion Request for Iraq War
11/12/2006
CQ TODAY
Nov. 7, 2006

Poke it with a stick? (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902062)

That must be an awfully long stick.

Several thoughts (1, Informative)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902088)

  1. We should be sending several automated system to do this, not a human crew. Much cheaper and easier.
  2. Why send the asteroid elsewhere? If it is going to hit Earth, put it into orbit. If it is big enough to worry about, then it must be a good size chunk of metal. We can mine it.
  3. One of the more useful uses for this is to send asteroids into Mars. Not the metal kind, but one based on organics. There are a number of them out there that are composed of Water, Ammonia or even of methane. These would be great to send directly into mars and build up the gases that are lacking. Ammonia is a very effective global warming gas that slow breaks down to N2, the perfect gas for life. H2o is also a good one.
  4. Of course, we could simply turn an asteroid into a nice space ship.

Re:Several thoughts (1)

DrEasy (559739) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902322)

Maybe somebody that we should be thankful to pulled a #3 on our planet a long long time ago? ;-)

Dinosaurs (3, Funny)

GodInHell (258915) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902094)

Technically, the dinosaurs didn't go anywhere. They just shrunk and grew feathers.. we know grow them in factory farms and eat them by the pound at Chik-Fil-A.

(That and worship our them as our yellow masters through PBS.)

-GiH

Re:Dinosaurs (1)

Schwarzchild (225794) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902352)

Technically, the dinosaurs didn't go anywhere. They just shrunk and grew feathers.. we know grow them in factory farms and eat them by the pound at Chik-Fil-A.
Umm...are you trying to tell me that Tyrannosaurus Rex tastes like CHICKEN?

Disappointing ... (1)

f8l_0e (775982) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902108)

If they're going to take inspiration from Michael Bay films, they need to attempt to build life size TransFormers.

Think of the Astrologists!!!! (3, Funny)

themindfantastic (1025938) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902126)

Hey you will go screwing up all those astrologists and their predictions if you start moving crap around! Think of the ASTROLOGISTS!!!!!

Re:Think of the Astrologists!!!! (2, Funny)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902226)

Think of the ASTROLOGISTS!!!!!

I am thinking of them. I'm thinking of poking them with a stick until they deflect from their course. I really like the idea of lots of little pokes, but if that doesn't do the trick I'm perfectly willing to blow 'em up, real good.

anti-overlord revolution (2, Funny)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902232)

I for one welcome the uprising against the new asteroid overlords.

I can hear it now. (2, Insightful)

EonBlueApocalypse (1029220) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902254)

"And in other news a freak accident has sent an asteroid involved in a mock doomsday mission hurdling towards Earth. How will this affect your weekend? Stay tuned for Tom and his weekend weather forecast."

Waste of time and money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16902314)

Asteroids move fast enough that by the time anyone noticed a tiny rock flying on a direct course for Earth, it would be much too late to do anything about it, and it would more than likely go unnoticed until our atmosphere is already an ashy mess. The most we could do is fire a couple of nukes at it and hope for the best. This money should be spent finding ways to colonize other planets in my opinion.

Chicken Little NASA (1, Flamebait)

edbarbar (234498) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902330)

Let's see. There was an air blast in Siberia that people hypothesize was a meteorite. There was a large meteor strike 35Million years ago, and one about 65 million years ago. Better spend $Billions$ to fight this threat. Who cares if there is an actual threat, better look to Bruce Willis movies to figure out how to get public support for the expensive beaurocratic solutions, and develop a solution now that is 100 times more expensive than it would be 100 years from now (i.e., let's find a reason for existance).

The only threat here seems to be that NASA is an agency in trouble. Forbidding launches of private spacecraft in the US to protect the shuttle merely helped other countries to develop their own space programs. We are all tired of expensive failure after failure of overly complex missions, and see the many near misses of massive failures such as Hubble with its inverted lens, and Galileo when the antenna wouldn't open. [Being honest people we love the two Mars rovers, and applaud the out of the box thinking in their lander].

NASA, figure out a mission, or get out of the way.
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