China's Plan to Save the World From Apocalyptic Asteroids
China could save the world from an asteroid impact by launching a fleet of rockets into space to divert its path.
BEIJING — China could save the world from an asteroid impact by launching a fleet of rockets into space to divert its path, according to a government-funded paper published in the Science Direct journal.
The scientists’ calculations are based around the asteroid known as Bennu[d], which is orbiting the sun, and is as wide as the Empire State Building is tall, according to Reuters.
Bennu will come within about 4.6 million miles or 7.5 million kilometers of Earth’s orbit next century, according to NASA, and between the years 2175 and 2199 the chance that Bennu will impact Earth is 1 in 2,700.
The idea behind the Chinese study is that China could launch 23 Long March 5 rockets, each weighing almost 900 tons on take-off, to deflect the asteroid’s path.
The rockets would be made up of an Assembled Kinetic Impactor retained within the launch vehicle upper stage that sends the spacecraft into an Earth-escaping trajectory, in order to add extra weight and increase impact on the asteroid.
Researchers found in simulations that these vehicles could deflect a large asteroid from its original path by a distance of 1.4 times the Earth's radius, according to a report in the South China Morning Post.
The plan does not rely on nuclear technology, which is thought to be an advantage, as a nuclear blast could break any target into several threatening chunks.
The Chinese study says it has an advantage over a similar 2018 proposal worked on by NASA. It says NASA would use 75 Delta IV Heavy rockets, each carrying one HAMMER impactor, to knock the asteroid off course, against just 23 vehicles needed here. Lower numbers are ideal because the more launches required for success, the more difficult the mission, due to the failure rate of each individual launch, according to one Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientist who was part of the NASA proposal.
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