Asteroids may present a major risk to Earth, and therefore, NASA is working on a technology that may kill a space rock hours before it collides with the Earth.
Scientists may now check the skies for potentially dangerous asteroids. Nearly 28,000 objects close to the Earth have been discovered by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations (NEOO) Program.
This, however, is not enough. There should be a mechanism to defend ourselves if we identify a dangerous asteroid hanging over our heads. Fortunately, NASA’s Dart mission is on its way to smash with the asteroid Didymos B, changing the rock’s orbit. Didymos is not a worry for the planet. It’s a brilliant way to see how well the technology works in combating any threats from space.
The problem with deflection self-defense is that it takes a long time to prepare; however, Pi – Terminal Defense could be adopted considerably more quickly. The concept has now been selected for Phase One of NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program. Philip Lubin, an engineer from the University of California, Santa Barbara, suggested the idea.
The mission of Pi is to eliminate a dangerous asteroid. Short rods will be fired at the asteroid, shattering it into several smaller shards that will burn up harmlessly in the Earth’s atmosphere. The rods might be given in 10 x 10 arrays, apiece weighing 100 kg or 50 x 50 arrays, apiece weighing 40 kg, based on factors like the size of the rock. Multiple waves of missiles may be launched at once, or they could be loaded with nuclear weapons.
Lubin proposes that the Pi system be armed and launched into orbit or onto the Moon as soon as possible to hit the end target. Since the Moon has no atmosphere and has much lower gravity than Earth, it may be equipped with long-range optical or near-infrared monitoring equipment and launched within minutes if a threat is identified.
Lubin estimates that a 50-meter (164-foot) asteroid may be caught five hours before it collides with Earth. Furthermore, a 100-meter-diameter asteroid capable of causing a 100-megaton explosion may also be avoided. In reality, a 10-day warning is more than adequate to intercept the 370-meter (1,214-foot) diameter Apophis asteroid, which is slated to pass Earth in 2029.
The Pi system is still in its infancy, but with NASA’s attention, the study is underway, and it might one day become an essential component of our planetary security system.