Chinese researchers want to send more than 23 of China’s largest rockets to deflect a giant asteroid that would be on a collision course with Earth.
The idea is more than science fiction. Sometime between late 2021 and early 2022, the United States will launch a robotic spacecraft to intercept two asteroids relatively close to Earth.
When it arrives a year later, a NASA spacecraft will crash onto two small bodies of rock to see how much the asteroid’s trajectory changes. It will be humanity’s first attempt to change the course of a celestial body.
At the China National Space Science Center, researchers found in simulations that 23 Long March 5 rockets working together could deflect a large asteroid from its original path by a distance of 1.4 times Earth’s radius.
Their calculations are based on an asteroid named Bennu orbiting the Sun, which is as wide as the Empire State Building. It belongs to a class of rocks that are likely to have suffered regional or continental damage. Asteroids measuring more than 1 km would have global consequences.
China has successfully launched six Long March 5 rockets since 2016, with some of its remnants later returning to Earth’s atmosphere in May this year due to some safety concerns.
Professor Alan Fitzsimmons, from Queen’s University’s Center for Astrophysics Research in Belfast, said: “The proposal to place the top compartment of a launch rocket for a spacecraft guidance craft, creating a large kinetic impactor to deflect an asteroid, seemed to me a very good idea. affects as a concept.” Northern Ireland.
“By increasing the mass that the asteroid hits, simple physics should ensure a much greater effect,” Fitzsimmons said.
Professor Gareth Collins from Imperial College London said current estimates suggest a 100-metre-wide asteroid has about a 1% chance of hitting Earth in the next 100 years.
“Bennu’s collision size is likely about 10 times less likely,” Collins explains. Scientists say changing the path of an asteroid carries less risk than destroying the rock with nuclear explosives, which can create smaller fragments without altering its course.
Copyright © Thomson Reuters.