NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

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NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Iulus Cofield » Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:15 am UTC

Forget falling stars: NASA plans to catch an asteroid

NN) -- NASA is planning to catch an asteroid and place it in orbit around the moon.
Seriously.

What sounds like something from science fiction is actually a part of President Barack Obama's proposed federal budget for the next fiscal year, according to a Florida senator.

The budget is expected to be unveiled this week.

Money needed to prevent big asteroid strike

"In a nutshell, the plan in NASA's hands calls for catching an asteroid with a robotic spacecraft and towing it back toward Earth, where it would then be placed in a stable orbit around the moon," read a statement from the office of Florida Sen. Bill Nelson.

Astronauts would then travel to the asteroid where "there could be mining activities, research into ways of deflecting an asteroid from striking Earth and testing to develop technology for a trip to deep space and Mars," it said.

NASA's plan is similar to one suggested last year by experts at the California Institute of Technology,
...

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby dudiobugtron » Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:48 am UTC

I like this idea: "Hey <insert non-US ally here>, an asteroid is going to hit you. We can stop it, but it will cost, say...
One Million Dollars..."

And if no asteroids come around naturally, they can use the old ones as a threat. Like an Asteroid protection racket. "Pay us the money, and no asteroids will hit you..."
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Iulus Cofield » Tue Apr 09, 2013 3:32 am UTC

When you put it that way, it sounds like a devious plot to circumvent the Outer Space Treaty.

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Aikanaro » Tue Apr 09, 2013 3:42 am UTC

Iulus Cofield wrote:When you put it that way, it sounds like a devious awesome plot to circumvent the Outer Space Treaty that only a James Bond villain could come up with.

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Ormurinn » Tue Apr 09, 2013 7:31 am UTC

Considering the Outer Space Treaty is holding us back as a species, I don't even mind if it is.

WRT the plan itself, I'm chuffed.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Tirian » Tue Apr 09, 2013 8:03 am UTC

When I think about the crises that this world faces that would be well-served by multi-year multibillion dollar research initiatives, the lack of asteroids orbiting the moon doesn't come up. When Obama shut down Bush's crazy science fiction NASA budget, I was hoping he wouldn't replace it with his own.

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Belial » Tue Apr 09, 2013 8:22 am UTC

I dunno, on a scale of one-to-"species-wide extinction", I feel like "learning to deflect asteroids" is actually pretty important.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby J Thomas » Tue Apr 09, 2013 11:03 am UTC

Belial wrote:I dunno, on a scale of one-to-"species-wide extinction", I feel like "learning to deflect asteroids" is actually pretty important.


I agree. If we don't learn to do that within the next 100,000 years, then we are slacking.

But we probably don't need it within the next 10 years, or the next 50 years. This is a good one to solve after we get the energy supply handled.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Yoshisummons » Tue Apr 09, 2013 12:18 pm UTC

Most likely the sole reason it's in there is because of that Russian meteorite causing a big fuss. I always loved how the Bond villains always asked below the actual cost of setting up the extortion scenario, gave it a cartoony vibe.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Diadem » Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:16 pm UTC

Yoshisummons wrote:I always loved how the Bond villains always asked below the actual cost of setting up the extortion scenario, gave it a cartoony vibe.

Perhaps they considered extortion to be its own reward?

Anyway, I don't think this is bad place to spend money. Learning to deflect asteroids is important, and while it's true that we probably don't need such technology in the next 10 years, imagine how embarrassing it would be to be wiped out as a species when you have the potential to build technology to avoid it.

Besides, learning to deflect asteroids is hardly the only benefit.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Sero » Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:36 pm UTC

Indeed. Major asteroid impacts are rare, but we're going to feel awfully stupid (and dead) if another dinosaur-killer smacks into us sometime in the next hundred millenia.

I think we may be fixating a bit too much on the asteroid aspect of it, yeah. That strikes me more as a 'This will tell us a bit more about how to deflect asteroids, but as a byproduct of figuring out how to move them, or other large masses, around the solar system.'

This is basic research type of stuff, that I have no doubt will show significant dividends in the long term. If that is made more achievable via some marketing buzz due to that meteor airburst in Russia, so be it.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby PolakoVoador » Tue Apr 09, 2013 3:35 pm UTC

Another plus side: it's awesome!

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Yoshisummons » Tue Apr 09, 2013 7:46 pm UTC

Diadem wrote:
Yoshisummons wrote:I always loved how the Bond villains always asked below the actual cost of setting up the extortion scenario, gave it a cartoony vibe.

Perhaps they considered extortion to be its own reward?

[link]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWYCS6k1IOA[/link]

OT: Might as well be sooner rather than later I guess, also wouldn't this be the first step for asteroid mining?
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Heisenberg » Tue Apr 09, 2013 8:15 pm UTC

That's barely an asteroid. ~20 feet across? Why even bother?

Go big or go home. If I'm leaving LEO, you'd better bet I come back with something big enough you can see it from Earth.

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Yoshisummons » Tue Apr 09, 2013 8:34 pm UTC

Ah the old saying, if it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing. Surely the point of putting it in orbit of the moon is so if they mess up it won't hit anything of value ex: The Hubble Space Telescope. Even if the odds are low.
Last edited by Yoshisummons on Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:13 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby J Thomas » Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:09 pm UTC

Yoshisummons wrote:Ah the old saying, if it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing.


If it's not worth doing at all, then it's not worth doing well.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Fire Brns » Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:17 am UTC

research into ways of deflecting an asteroid from striking Earth.

This bugs me, we can do all these tests with computers.

The only reason we would need an actual rock is if we were going to throw it at the Earth and swing at it with a prototype interception system like it was some easy game of interplanetary baseball.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby KnightExemplar » Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:47 am UTC

Fire Brns wrote:
research into ways of deflecting an asteroid from striking Earth.

This bugs me, we can do all these tests with computers.


And without real data, who is going to be able to write these computer programs that simulate asteroid deflection strategies? "Computer Simulations" are not magic. They are the result of various mathematical models applied to hard data. The more hard data we have, the better the models will fit reality.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Fire Brns » Wed Apr 10, 2013 6:07 am UTC

KnightExemplar wrote:
Fire Brns wrote:
research into ways of deflecting an asteroid from striking Earth.

This bugs me, we can do all these tests with computers.


And without real data, who is going to be able to write these computer programs that simulate asteroid deflection strategies? "Computer Simulations" are not magic. They are the result of various mathematical models applied to hard data. The more hard data we have, the better the models will fit reality.

We still have a reasonable amount of data from observations of our solar system and from the magic sky rocks that have already fallen to the ground, I'd prefer we have at least a prototype system in place before we try to push a chunk of potential death albeit small towards Earth.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Iulus Cofield » Wed Apr 10, 2013 6:16 am UTC

I think the idea here is testing actual hardware for asteroid deflection. I'm no rocket scientist, but I don't think it was the math that took 11 tries to get to the moon.

Plus, you know, there can't be much difference between the hardware needed for asteroid deflection and the hardware for moving asteroids into lunar orbit.

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Fire Brns » Wed Apr 10, 2013 6:24 am UTC

11 because there were people on them. Fragile cargo and ethical concerns favor the cautious.

If the rock is moved properly it will form a stable orbit, do it a bit wrong and it gets flung around the moon with a whole lot of extra momentum and it becomes exponentially more dangerous and difficult to reintercept.

I'm not averted to the idea and I'm sure nasa will take proper precautions but I'd like to hear more than "we want to intentionally move a large rock in space closer to the Earth".
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby addams » Wed Apr 10, 2013 6:37 am UTC

Belial wrote:I dunno, on a scale of one-to-"species-wide extinction", I feel like "learning to deflect asteroids" is actually pretty important.

Right.
But?
What about The Natural Order of Things?

I think, I may be with that guy from MIB.
The writers wrote, "Human thought is a contagious disease."

The Heavens may be gunning for us.
It could not happen to a more deserving species.

So many innocent species will go down with us.
Leave it to Humans to put up a fight.

What have you got? 27 years?
What can you whip up in a short 27 years?

I Did read it somewhere.
Twenty some years and we are going to have cosmic company, again.

Yes. Humanity may be able to do a nice Asteroid Rodeo in 20 years or so.
Maybe, not. Most of us are going to be busy with Earth Based concerns.

It is a nice Fairy Tail.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Belial » Wed Apr 10, 2013 8:07 am UTC

Fire Brns wrote:I'd prefer we have at least a prototype system in place before we try to push a chunk of potential death albeit small towards Earth.


Umm...presuming that we develop a vehicle that can grab and tow an asteroid around, so as to place it in orbit around the moon (or strike and bounce it into that orbit like a game of cosmic billiards), how is that technology not the same technology we would use to deflect an asteroid headed for us?

Like, you're talking about this like they would be separate systems, when it rather sounds like the exact same process (and the exact same technology) just aimed differently. Meaning that this isn't setting up the test for an asteroid deflection system, this is the test for an asteroid deflection system.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Zamfir » Wed Apr 10, 2013 9:29 am UTC

Cause asteroids of this size are not the ones to worry about. If your talking 'species-threatening': the dinosaur killer was about a billion times larger than this. The apophis asteroid you sometime hear about is more than 20000 times smaller than that, but that still a lot more than this by orders of magnitude. The asteroid that hit Russia was still estimated as 20 times larger than this plan, and that one could apparently hit a city without catastrophic consequences.

Edit: the numbers I used

This plan: 500 ton
Chelyabinsk: 11,000 ton
Tunguska: +- 100,000 ton
Apophis: 300 meters -> order of 20 million ton
dinosaurs: 10km -> order of 500 billion ton

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Nylonathatep » Wed Apr 10, 2013 2:04 pm UTC

Belial wrote:I dunno, on a scale of one-to-"species-wide extinction", I feel like "learning to deflect asteroids" is actually pretty important.


I rather like the Military application of this new project. With precise projectary calculations, we could be fling natural astroides at hostile nations instead of spending millions to build a nuke. With a bit of deceptions we could even make it look like a natural disaster instead of an attack.

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Xenomortis » Wed Apr 10, 2013 2:19 pm UTC

Nylonathatep wrote:
Belial wrote:I dunno, on a scale of one-to-"species-wide extinction", I feel like "learning to deflect asteroids" is actually pretty important.


I rather like the Military application of this new project. With precise projectary calculations, we could be fling natural astroides at hostile nations instead of spending millions to build a nuke. With a bit of deceptions we could even make it look like a natural disaster instead of an attack.


1.
I strongly suspect that a nuke would be cheaper and more effective.

2.
How do you propose to hide the fact that you've deflected an asteroid? I imagine such an event would not go unnoticed.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby J Thomas » Wed Apr 10, 2013 2:39 pm UTC

Xenomortis wrote:
Nylonathatep wrote:
Belial wrote:I dunno, on a scale of one-to-"species-wide extinction", I feel like "learning to deflect asteroids" is actually pretty important.


I rather like the Military application of this new project. With precise projectary calculations, we could be fling natural astroides at hostile nations instead of spending millions to build a nuke. With a bit of deceptions we could even make it look like a natural disaster instead of an attack.


1.
I strongly suspect that a nuke would be cheaper and more effective.


I expect it would be cheaper since the technology is developed and the infrastructure is in place. As for more effective, it's considerably easier to deflect a missile that doesn't weigh all that much than a great big rock that has already going pretty fast. And there's nothing there to disable -- it's just a rock. Though if you could break it into grain-of-sand size pieces that ought to slow it down pretty fast. Maybe with another nuke?

2.
How do you propose to hide the fact that you've deflected an asteroid? I imagine such an event would not go unnoticed.


Yes, if they don't have the technology to tell whether you deflected it, they probably aren't the kind of threat that needs to be hit that way. On the other hand if you can drop big rocks on people and they can't stop you, maybe you'd rather they knew about it. They will "respect" you more if they know you can and will do that, than if they think somebody just had some bad luck.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Diemo » Wed Apr 10, 2013 2:48 pm UTC

A pretty small asteroid could do a lot of damage and be hard to see, especially if you painted it in black paint (basically reducing it's aldebo) first or just choose one with a small aldebo
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby sardia » Wed Apr 10, 2013 3:10 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:
Xenomortis wrote:
Nylonathatep wrote:
Belial wrote:I dunno, on a scale of one-to-"species-wide extinction", I feel like "learning to deflect asteroids" is actually pretty important.


I rather like the Military application of this new project. With precise projectary calculations, we could be fling natural astroides at hostile nations instead of spending millions to build a nuke. With a bit of deceptions we could even make it look like a natural disaster instead of an attack.


1.
I strongly suspect that a nuke would be cheaper and more effective.


I expect it would be cheaper since the technology is developed and the infrastructure is in place. As for more effective, it's considerably easier to deflect a missile that doesn't weigh all that much than a great big rock that has already going pretty fast. And there's nothing there to disable -- it's just a rock. Though if you could break it into grain-of-sand size pieces that ought to slow it down pretty fast. Maybe with another nuke?

2.
How do you propose to hide the fact that you've deflected an asteroid? I imagine such an event would not go unnoticed.


Yes, if they don't have the technology to tell whether you deflected it, they probably aren't the kind of threat that needs to be hit that way. On the other hand if you can drop big rocks on people and they can't stop you, maybe you'd rather they knew about it. They will "respect" you more if they know you can and will do that, than if they think somebody just had some bad luck.

You'd be amazed how much we spend fighting teenagers with ak-47s and explosives. of course, if we're gonna be using kinetic energy weapons, this one is quite messey. Setting the air on fire and blotting out the sun to take out a target is kinda overkill, and the collateral damage is as high, if not higher than a nuclear weapon. It would take exponentially longer for the dust to clear as the size of the asteroid increases. All that said, I'd be for it, its just too cool to not try. Then again, I'm also a fan of project Orion, so you probably shouldn't listen to me.

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby J Thomas » Wed Apr 10, 2013 3:21 pm UTC

sardia wrote:You'd be amazed how much we spend fighting teenagers with ak-47s and explosives. of course, if we're gonna be using kinetic energy weapons, this one is quite messey.


Sure. This is not good for dealing with teenagers with AK47s and explosives.

Maybe what we ought to do is we deal with the teenagers with AK47s and explosives over here, and let the people they bother over there, deal with them over there.

We can't really expect to clean up all the teenagers with AK47s in the world. There are too many new teenagers every year. It's a neverending thankless task. Better if we take care of our teenagers and they take care of their teenagers.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Wnderer » Wed Apr 10, 2013 3:36 pm UTC

Remember this.

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/tech/sci ... plan_N.htm

When Obama killed W's Moon and Mars missions, he promised to send astronauts to an asteroid. Basically he's knocked it down from a 5 million mile mission to a 240,000 mile mission and at 100 million dollars that is less than 1 quarter of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's budget which I have been repeatedly told is not a lot of money.

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Fire Brns » Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:54 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
Fire Brns wrote:I'd prefer we have at least a prototype system in place before we try to push a chunk of potential death albeit small towards Earth.


Umm...presuming that we develop a vehicle that can grab and tow an asteroid around, so as to place it in orbit around the moon (or strike and bounce it into that orbit like a game of cosmic billiards), how is that technology not the same technology we would use to deflect an asteroid headed for us?

Like, you're talking about this like they would be separate systems, when it rather sounds like the exact same process (and the exact same technology) just aimed differently. Meaning that this isn't setting up the test for an asteroid deflection system, this is the test for an asteroid deflection system.

If you phrase it that way, towing one towards earth could be relatively safe, bouncing it still sounds incredibly reckless (which would be fine if it was away from Earth).
It's hard to see them as the same system when moving the rock into orbit around the moon would give us "necessary" data to build a practical deflection system.

Zamfir wrote:This plan: 500 ton
Lightweight airplanes have crashed at speeds of 150 miles per hour and have still killed dozens, a 500 ton solid rock traveling at significantly greater speeds in the slim chance it lands in a populated area would still have a great capacity for killing. I doesn't matter if the chance is ridiculously small and the damage is negligible on a global scale; we can't trivialize the value of and risk to people on the ground.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Zamfir » Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:59 pm UTC

500 ton asteroids burn up long before they hit the ground.

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby sardia » Wed Apr 10, 2013 6:00 pm UTC

You're being paranoid and misinformed. A light aircraft dropped from space would burn up on reentry and be utterly harmless. http://what-if.xkcd.com/28/
That's a good reference for what happens to asteroids that fall to earth.

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Heisenberg » Wed Apr 10, 2013 6:18 pm UTC

Fire Brns wrote:
Zamfir wrote:This plan: 500 ton
Lightweight airplanes have crashed at speeds of 150 miles per hour and have still killed dozens, a 500 ton solid rock traveling at significantly greater speeds in the slim chance it lands in a populated area would still have a great capacity for killing. I doesn't matter if the chance is ridiculously small and the damage is negligible on a global scale; we can't trivialize the value of and risk to people on the ground.

So we should ground all the aircraft in the world?

Or maybe, we could investigate how to control them safely. And make them less likely to kill people. Hey, it worked for aircraft, and automobiles. Next maybe we should try learning how to move stuff in space safely and effectively. You know, before some idiot robber baron starts playing pool with asteroids.
Fire Brns wrote:I'm not averted to the idea and I'm sure nasa will take proper precautions but I'd like to hear more than "we want to intentionally move a large rock in space closer to the Earth".

Would it make you feel better if we moved a large rock in space FARTHER from Earth? Because there are Near Earth Asteroids that come closer than lunar orbit, so technically moving them to lunar orbit would not only be more stable, it would make them farther away.

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Princess Marzipan » Wed Apr 10, 2013 6:45 pm UTC

Nylonathatep wrote:With a bit of deceptions we could even make it look like a natural disaster instead of an attack.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Belial » Wed Apr 10, 2013 7:43 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:Cause asteroids of this size are not the ones to worry about. If your talking 'species-threatening': the dinosaur killer was about a billion times larger than this. The apophis asteroid you sometime hear about is more than 20000 times smaller than that, but that still a lot more than this by orders of magnitude. The asteroid that hit Russia was still estimated as 20 times larger than this plan, and that one could apparently hit a city without catastrophic consequences.

Edit: the numbers I used

This plan: 500 ton
Chelyabinsk: 11,000 ton
Tunguska: +- 100,000 ton
Apophis: 300 meters -> order of 20 million ton
dinosaurs: 10km -> order of 500 billion ton


Reasonable. But even if you put aside the fact that this particular asteroid would burn up on entry if it fell to earth, the technology that we use to move this asteroid is still the technology we would use to deflect this asteroid if for some reason we had need to do so, which invalidates the "we shouldn't screw with it until we have a way to protect ourselves from it" argument.

As for the species extinction thing, there's something to be said for practicing on small targets. Figuring out how to move a 500 ton asteroid around on a whim seems, to me, like the first step toward figuring out how to move muti-million ton asteroids around.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Fire Brns » Wed Apr 10, 2013 8:09 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:
Fire Brns wrote:
Zamfir wrote:This plan: 500 ton
Lightweight airplanes have crashed at speeds of 150 miles per hour and have still killed dozens, a 500 ton solid rock traveling at significantly greater speeds in the slim chance it lands in a populated area would still have a great capacity for killing. I doesn't matter if the chance is ridiculously small and the damage is negligible on a global scale; we can't trivialize the value of and risk to people on the ground.

So we should ground all the aircraft in the world?

Or maybe, we could investigate how to control them safely. And make them less likely to kill people. Hey, it worked for aircraft, and automobiles. Next maybe we should try learning how to move stuff in space safely and effectively. You know, before some idiot robber baron starts playing pool with asteroids.
We could ground reckless pilots and poorly maintained aircraft.

We can investigate how to control them safely, and we can do that out where they aren't near people at all with very automated systems. It's unlikely in any event that by the time any robber baron could play with asteroids that we wouldn't have a definite understanding and technology to intercept them.

Fire Brns wrote:I'm not averted to the idea and I'm sure nasa will take proper precautions but I'd like to hear more than "we want to intentionally move a large rock in space closer to the Earth".

Would it make you feel better if we moved a large rock in space FARTHER from Earth? Because there are Near Earth Asteroids that come closer than lunar orbit, so technically moving them to lunar orbit would not only be more stable, it would make them farther away.
Moving NEOs away from the Earth and towards the moon is a reasonable thing as a soft test of an asteroid interception system.

sardia wrote:You're being paranoid and misinformed. A light aircraft dropped from space would burn up on reentry and be utterly harmless. http://what-if.xkcd.com/28/
That's a good reference for what happens to asteroids that fall to earth.
Aircraft from a few thousand feet up, not space. My point in that comparison was that something of low mass and speed can still rack up some damage, multiply both variables and it becomes even more great a danger. And a few small asteroids in the range of 500 tons have crashed to the earth before. They tended to be solid nickle-iron however and are all of them are older than civilization, if nasa chose one that was an imperfect mix of softer earth metals then it would likely disintegrate.
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Heisenberg
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Heisenberg » Wed Apr 10, 2013 9:15 pm UTC

Fire Brns wrote:Moving NEOs away from the Earth and towards the moon is a reasonable thing as a soft test of an asteroid interception system.
Hey, that's exactly what NASA wants to do. You guys should be friends.

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Aikanaro
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Aikanaro » Thu Apr 11, 2013 12:54 pm UTC

Princess Marzipan wrote:
Nylonathatep wrote:With a bit of deceptions we could even make it look like a natural disaster instead of an attack.
Simpsons Stargate did it!

Superman TAS did, too. Dunno who else had done it before.
Dear xkcd,

On behalf of my religion, I'm sorry so many of us do dumb shit. Please forgive us.

Love, Aikanaro.


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