Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart outlines what we can do to avoid an asteroid striking the Earth and destroying all life.
It's the stuff of late 90s movies Deep Impact and Armageddon but the scenario is all too real. If an asteroid of sufficient size were to hit the Earth, the impact along with the dust it releases into our atmosphere would likely end all life on our planet, or at least make it much more of a pain in the ass. Rusty Schweickart doesn't want to sit and watch something like that happen and he doesn't think a ragtag group of oil drillers led by Bruce Willis is really going to save the day. Schweickart is leading a campaign to test the process by which we can alter an asteroid's trajectory to avoid the Earth and the extinction of the human race.
He calls for NASA to test a two-pronged plan with a kinetic impact (read: big explosion) to push the asteroid off course and a gravity tractor spacecraft to track the object and "pull" it by interacting with the asteroid's gravitational field.
"You want to know what happens when you do a kinetic impact, so you want an 'observer' spacecraft up there as well," Schweickart said. "You don't do a kinetic impact without an observation, because the impactor destroys itself in the process and without the observer you wouldn't know what happened except by tracking the object over time, which is not the best way to find out whether you got the job done."
He's not positive that everything he outlines will work, but that's why Schweickart thinks we need to start testing now.
"We need to demonstrate it because we - NASA, the technical community, the international community - need to learn what you find out when you do something for the first time," he said. "Playing a concerto in front of an audience is quite different from playing it alone in your house."
Plus, I don't think that Bruce Willis will be alive for much longer. We need to figure out what to do when he's no longer available.
Source: Space Fellowship