Last-Minute Defense Against an Asteroid That Could Obliterate it Before Impact

Mining asteroids might be necessary for humanity to expand into the Solar System. A new paper says spacecraft could work in pairs to capture Near Earth Asteroids. Credit: ESA.

Gazing at the night sky can evoke a sense of wonder regarding humanity’s place in the Universe. But that’s not all it can evoke. If you’re knowledgeable about asteroid strikes like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs, then even a fleeting meteorite can nudge aside your enjoyable sense of wonder. What if?

Luckily, planetary defence is at the top of mind for some scientists and engineers. One of those scientists is Professor Philip Lubin from the University of California Santa Barbara. Lubin is developing his idea called PI-Terminal Defense for Humanity. The PI stands for Pulverize It, and Lubin thinks pulverizing an incoming impactor into tiny pieces is our best bet to protect ourselves from an asteroid on short notice.

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What Are Your Options When you’ve Only Got Hours or Days to Prevent an Asteroid Impact?

Mining asteroids might be necessary for humanity to expand into the Solar System. A new paper says spacecraft could work in pairs to capture Near Earth Asteroids. Credit: ESA.

Imagine a scenario where we detect an asteroid heading straight for Earth. Imagine that it will arrive in a couple of days, or worse, only a few hours. What could be done to stop it?

It might be possible to protect ourselves and the planet on such short notice. But we’d have to test and build the right infrastructure to do it.

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