Moving the NEO with a bang
There are a number of ways an asteroid’s path can be changed by using an explosion of some kind and the NEOShield project will explore a range of these options. Here are some of the ideas that will be investigated.
(Image courtesy Airbus Defence and Space)
Nuclear blast deflection:
Possibly the most effective - yet controversial - method of deflecting the largest asteroids that could hit our planet. This technique requires the use of a nuclear explosive close to an asteroid. The blast causes the outer layers of the asteroid to evaporate, acting just like rocket fuel, pushing the asteroid away from Earth. This is very different to the usual picture used in Hollywood of asteroids being blown up. It’s a much safer and is thought to be a more effective way of safeguarding the Earth.
Explosive materials carry a lot of energy for a given amount of mass to an asteroid – energy which can be used to move it from its course towards Earth. Standard explosives could be used to impart small or medium nudges to an asteroid following an initial kinetic impact, for example.
The more material we can throw off an asteroid, the more effective the method of deflection tends to be. Burying an explosive before setting it off may be a good way to achieve this. This idea will be considered during the study.
These are just some of the concepts related to blast deflection that will be looked at during the NEOShield project.