Private Funding for Asteroid Telescope

by Paul Gilster on June 29, 2012

Asteroids are certainly having their moment in the press, what with the combined attention being paid first to Planetary Resources and its plans for asteroid mining, and now the B612 Foundation, with a plan that in some ways tracks the Planetary Resources model. As announced yesterday, B612 intends to build a space telescope using private funding and launch it into a Solar orbit, from which it can carry out discovery and mapping operations targeting asteroids that might pose a threat to the Earth. You’ll recall that Planetary Resources also has an ambitious agenda in terms of developing a series of small space telescopes.

NASA, it’s true, is already searching for Earth-crossing asteroids, and between ground-based efforts and space-borne missions like the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer, thousands of asteroids that pass near the Earth have been discovered. But what the B612 Foundation is calling Sentinel will be dedicated to finding the smaller objects whose effect could still be catastrophic. I see that Ed Lu, a seasoned astronaut who is now chairman and CEO of the Foundation, has the most recent impact in mind when he describes the mission:

“The orbits of the inner solar system where Earth lies are populated with a half million asteroids larger than the one that struck Tunguska (June 30, 1908), and yet we’ve identified and mapped only about one percent of these asteroids to date. During its 5.5-year mission survey time, Sentinel will discover and track half a million Near Earth Asteroids, creating a dynamic map that will provide the blueprint for future exploration of our Solar System, while protecting the future of humanity on Earth.”

Image: Fallen trees at Tunguska, in a photo taken in 1927, long after the event. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Tunguska was, of course, a catastrophe we dodged, but only because it fell in a relatively unpopulated area of Siberia. Theories differ as to exactly what the object was, but whatever struck this remote region created the largest impact event in recorded history. The explosion knocked down trees over an area covering 2150 square kilometers. We can only imagine what would happen if an explosion of this size took place over a large metropolitan area.

Thus the 5.5-year mission of Sentinel, to be built by Ball Aerospace and the team behind the Spitzer and Kepler space telescopes. The plan is to catalog 90 percent of the asteroids larger than 140 meters, with the capability of discovering objects as small as 30 meters in diameter. As to Tunguska-sized objects (40-meters wide), B612 thinks it can find 50 percent of them.

The 1.5 ton telescope works in the infrared with a 50-centimeter mirror, with survey operations to scan the entire night half of the sky every 26 days to identify moving objects. Sentinel will orbit between Earth and Venus, scanning the skies near the Earth’s orbit with the Sun at its back. After a five year period of development and testing, launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 is expected in 2017-2018.

Image: Projected orbit for Sentinel. Credit: B612 Foundation.

The man most identified with the B612 Foundation is Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart, who founded it and now serves as chairman emeritus. Says Schweickart:

“For the first time in history, B612′s Sentinel Mission will create a comprehensive and dynamic map of the inner solar system in which we live – providing vital information about who we are, who are our neighbors, and where we are going. We will know which asteroids will pass close to Earth and when, and which, if any of these asteroids actually threaten to collide with Earth. The nice thing about asteroids is that once you’ve found them and once you have a good solid orbit on them you can predict a hundred years ahead of time whether there is a likelihood of an impact with the Earth.”

Even better is the fact that getting to a dangerous asteroid in plenty of time — a decade or more is preferable — leaves us with a variety of options for deflecting its course, something we’d have little time to manage in cases like that of the recent close pass by asteroid 2012 LZ1, which turned out to be fully a kilometer wide and made its approach scant days after its discovery. The more eyes on the sky the better, for the deflection options, studied by the B612 Foundation itself ever since its founding in 2002, include slow-acting trajectory changers like ‘gravity tractors,’ in which a spacecraft deflects the object using only its gravitational field as it orbits the asteroid.

What lightens the hearts of space enthusiasts is the fast pace of development for projects like these now that commercial launches are becoming a reality. Sentinel will be able to take advantage of advances in computing as well as our accumulated experience with infrared sensing, but it wouldn’t be in the cards if it weren’t for the launch capability provided by the Falcon 9. It also relies on the combined efforts of scientists, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, along with the individual contributions needed to raise the several hundred million dollars needed. Speaking of which, the B612 Foundation donation page is open for business.

It’s interesting to put the fund-raising effort in the context of other attempts to fund major projects, as Ed Lu did when talking to Alan Boyle before the news conference announcing Sentinel in San Francisco. Boyle discussed the matter in his Cosmic Log column:

Lu pointed out that the estimated cost of the mission, amounting to a few hundred million dollars, was comparable to the cost of building a performing arts center, a museum, or a planetarium like the one where today’s briefing was being held. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, for example, has raised more than $437 million in its current capital campaign. “There are 50 to 100 projects larger than ours going on at any time in the United States, and nobody bats an eye,” he said.

And as Lu went on to recall, some of the observatories that are at the heart of astronomy’s history were built with private financing, including the Lick Observatory, the Keck Observatory and Palomar. The guess here, given our crowd-source mentality in a time of government cutbacks, is that the B612 Foundation will indeed raise enough money to fly this mission, serving as a precedent for other such efforts. The Planetary Society’s LightSail comes to mind, but private and commercial space efforts of all kinds are clearly on a fast upward trajectory.

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Alex Tolley June 29, 2012 at 10:10

Do we have any info on the cost of this telescope and its capabilities compared with the proposed Leo telescope by Planetary Resources?

philw1776 June 29, 2012 at 10:31

Once again private industry outperforms moribund government programs at NASA. Both the private Falcon 9 launcher and the B612 may do more for humanity than the integral sum of government programs one the last century.

What’s interesting is that lower cost access to space (SpaceX et. al.) enables crowdsource funded and developed programs for a variety of space science missions. Perhaps someday later this decade or early next a Terrestrial Planet Finder mission even though the beautiful people in the astronomy science establishment look down their postgrad noses at such missions.

James Pailly June 29, 2012 at 11:28

Thanks for this information. I’m careful about who I donate my money to and I’m going to do some more research first, but I may make a contribution to the B612 Foundation. This sounds like a project that may one day save my life and everyone else’s lives on this planet. I think that’s worth a few bucks.

Joy June 29, 2012 at 17:33

Hooray for Ed & Rusty! I have long been an admirer of B612, and enjoyed some nice email exchanges with Rusty early on (circa 2003?). A most worthwhile and cost effective project.

However, I do question this: “The nice thing about asteroids is that once you’ve found them and once you have a good solid orbit on them you can predict a hundred years ahead of time whether there is a likelihood of an impact with the Earth.”

The Yarkovsky effect should be quite pronounced in such small bodies. Can one really accurately predict the orbit of a 40 meter asteroid for 100 years? I wonder.

Mike June 29, 2012 at 17:56

To philw1776, I know what you mean but you should bear in mind that there are people in the “astronomy science establishment” that would give their eyeteeth and possibly other parts of their anatomy for a new space based instrument capable of detecting exoplanet biomarkers. I’m thinking in particular of Geoff Marcys “ten lost years” speech regarding NASA planning.
The Planetary Society has been funding, through money raised be private donations, amateur astronomers asteroid finding and tracking projects for some years now. Though certainly a lot more can be done. One hopes that Pan-STARRs and the LSST will be completed and put to good use.

Interstellar Bill June 29, 2012 at 18:21

When considering government’s inherent inefficiency, the entire space program could better be funded by making it a charitable tax deduction, but for corporations such as Boeing as well as individuals.

Michael Spencer June 30, 2012 at 7:36

Hi Paul,

As you know, I’ve been a faithful reader for many years. I come to this site for some very fine writing, for smart, timely write-ups of current science, and to recharge my own enthusiasm for the matter of deep space exploration. And, I come to this site to read the comments from notables in the field (I’m sometimes surprised when I see who is commenting), who very often expand and extend your remarks.

And I wonder if I could ask a question to you, and to the other very smart people here: can we please leave politics out of the discussion? Examples from today: “moribund”, “inherent inefficiency”, and many others come up, and they are coming up in more frequency. These are code words from the ‘government should be run as a business crowd’. I respect the right of all to their opinions.

This is a genteel science site run by an amiable moderator. Let’s keep it friendly and non-political, OK?

There’s a very strong case to be made that NASA and many other government agencies are very efficient indeed. But this isn’t the place for political code words in an election year.

Certainly some could receive this plea in an inflammatory way, and to those I beg indulgence. That’s not the intent, and, Paul, no harm done should you chose not to run this comment (or edit as you see fit).

Thanks.

Michael Spencer

magne June 30, 2012 at 7:37

@Alex Think the Leo is less capable but they plan to use many of them. Look like they have different objectives, Planetary resources is interested in finding small 1-20 meter astroids who is easy to get to, they don’t have to find all just some who are suitable, this system focus on finding larger ones and find everyone close to earth.

philw1776 June 30, 2012 at 13:48

Mike I’m aware and heard Marcy’s rant and sympathize with him and those in the exoplanet field who performed well beyond expectations only to have a very insular astronomy committee devastate the next decade’s follow on research prospects. I don’t understand their reasoning and would appreciate any informed readers’ considered input.

I encourage all to consider and evaluate private contribution options as mentioned seeing that the government has again dropped the ball with public funded missions.

Drakend July 1, 2012 at 8:55

Hi guys!
This article is really interesting: finally someone is taking the asteroid deflection issue to a new level, like it should have been from the beginning imho. This issue is so crucial from humanity that governments indifference towards it it’s simply unexplanable: I mean governments worldwide, not just the US one. Putting a country flag on the Moon or having some fancy rover moving over Mars’ surface is nice and all, but if we go extinct this will all be for nothing.
I think public space agencies all over the world should create an international program about mapping all of the asteroids in the Solar System, from the dwarf planets to the tiniest of the stones!!!
A variety of deflection methods should be developed too, because I’m not an expert about asteroid composition, but I do know asteroids out there aren’t made of the same materials. A method which works with one type of asteroid may not be as good for another type.
In such a program the issue of rogue planets should be addressed too imho: they are an even greater danger for life on Earth imho, but on the Solar System level. If one Jupiter sized planet pass through the Solar System all of a sudden I think we’re done for because of gravitational perturbations it would cause, changing the orbits of all planets, including Earth.
I wouldn’t mind if they put Mars exploration to rest for some decades if the money saved in such a way would be spent for a program regarding asteroid deflection.

ljk July 1, 2012 at 14:57

Drakend said on July 1, 2012 at 8:55:

“This article is really interesting: finally someone is taking the asteroid deflection issue to a new level, like it should have been from the beginning imho. This issue is so crucial from humanity that governments indifference towards it it’s simply unexplanable: I mean governments worldwide, not just the US one. Putting a country flag on the Moon or having some fancy rover moving over Mars’ surface is nice and all, but if we go extinct this will all be for nothing.”

When the Apollo missions were getting ready for the Moon, there were still a few scientists who thought that the craters on the lunar surface were made not by meteorite impacts but volcanic eruptions and bubbles from vast lava fields. Just as with continental drift, the full acceptance and evidence for celestial impacts did not come into full acceptance until the 1960s, when the Space Age/Race was well underway and the focus was on the two primary space powers besting each other up in the heavens.

The threat of species-destroying impacts from space did not start to get taken seriously until the release of the disaster film Meteor in 1979. Okay, kidding – although I bet it did wake up a fair deal of the general public to the possibility of destruction from the heavens at the time and it was apparently inspired by the 1967 MIT plan to deflect the planetoid Eros using a bunch of Saturn 5 rockets with nuclear warheads where the Apollo spacecraft normally would have been.

http://www.film.com/movies/meteor/story/erics-bad-movies-meteor-1979/30307961

What really started things rolling for was the theory that a giant planetoid or comet hit Earth 65 million years ago and took out the dinosaurs. This idea did not start kicking in until the 1980s. Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series, released on PBS Television in 1980, barely mentions it as one possibility for the demise of the dinosaurs in one episode.

Then Jupiter got hit by the fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in July of 1994 and that really got the Save Earth from Space Destruction movement going. This is noted by the release of two SF films in 1998 on the topic of giant celestial objects threatening Earth, Deep Impact and Armageddon. The first is pretty good and fairly accurate, the second is just bad and painful but more people seem to have seen that one. The public probably still thinks that all it takes to stop a planetoid the size of Texas from destroying Earth is to send up a bunch of guys who just weeks earlier had been working on an oil rig to plant one nuclear bomb on the space rock by drilling an 800-foot hole into its surface in which to deposit the single nuclear bomb. That will cause the Texas-size planetoid to split in half, sending both pieces to pass on opposite sides of our planet – wheh.

So yes, you are correct that we should have devoted at least some of our space program to monitoring and deflecting PHAs (Potentially Hazardous Asteroids – and Comets), but it took a while to realize the threat. And for politicians, that means even longer to catch on, if ever.

Speaking of politics, while I agree to a degree that politics should not be the focus of discussions on Centauri Dreams as Michael Spencer requested, to avoid them completely when it comes to some topics in this blog is just not possible. Politics have been the boon and bane of all space programs since before the official start of the Space Age in 1957.

We have to find ways to work with the people who make the decisions and hold the purse strings, otherwise they will ignore such things as space impacts until it is way too late. Most of them are not science educated at all, so they need to learn from those who do know. And those who do know need to be better at getting across these important concepts to politicians the general public alike. Because if a space object does hit Earth and causes widespread death and destruction, guess who is going to get blamed along with the clueless politicians.

ljk July 1, 2012 at 15:56
ljk July 2, 2012 at 12:26

Space Cases: The Weirdest Legal Claims in Outer Space

By Adam Mann

June 1, 2012 | 6:30 am | Categories: Space

In January, a Quebec man named Sylvio Langvein walked into a courthouse in Canada and filed a suit declaring himself owner of the planets in our solar system, four of Jupiter’s moons, and the interplanetary space between.

By way of explanation, Langvein said he wanted to collect planets the same way that others collect hockey cards, and also prevent China from establishing outposts above his head.

The judge overseeing the case, Alain Michaud, dismissed it in March, calling Langvein a “quarrelsome litigant” whose paranoid actions were an abuse of the Canadian legal system. (This was Langvein’s 45th lawsuit — including four motions to the Supreme Court of Canada — since 2001).

The case is bizarre, but not unprecedented.

“Every now and then, someone thinks no one has claimed the moon before, and then rushes to claim it,” wrote Virgiliu Pop, a space law researcher at the Romanian Space Agency, in an email to Wired. “Humankind has a short collective memory, so the claimant is able to create some buzz before the story dies out — to be followed by a similar story, years later.”

As we enter an era when people are seriously advocating that the U.S. establish property rights on the moon and scholars debate the legality of mining asteroids, it’s interesting (and relevant) to look back at the people who have tried to assert ownership of the moon, Mars, other planets, and stars throughout history.

In 2006, Pop literally wrote the book on this matter, titled Unreal Estate: The Men Who Sold The Moon, which he describes as “a serious analysis of a trivial subject.” The compendium offers plenty of outrageous stories, and here we look at some of the book’s most spurious and strange space cases.

Full article here:

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/06/space-cases/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+wiredscience+%28Blog+-+Wired+Science%29 Owning space

To quote:

Alexander the Great is said to have wept when told by his friend, the philosopher Anaxarchus, that there are countless worlds in the universe.

“Do you not think it a matter worthy of lamentation that when there is such a vast multitude of worlds, we have not yet conquered one?” Alexander said.

Eniac July 5, 2012 at 22:57

philw1776:

Once again private industry outperforms moribund government programs at NASA.

I would consider this a bit of premature judgement, as both Planetary Resources and B612 at this point appear to be pretty web sites with big names and big plans, but no actual operations. Plenty of similar action plans have been drawn up in the past, without tangible results.

I am afraid SpaceX is pretty much the only example that currently comes close to supporting your point, and even there we are not quite there yet.

magne July 7, 2012 at 10:51

@ljk
>http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/03/mit-saves-the-world-project-icarus-1967/

Interesting, had been better to meet the asteroid as early as possible so the small orbit change would have more time to work.
Would also used more but smaller bombs. Much less chance of fragmentation, however this would be more complicated as you had to control each bomb individually, this is probably much easier today, much smaller electronic and more experience controlling probes.

ljk July 8, 2012 at 0:42

Vital eye for killer asteroids could shut imminently

06 July 2012 by Ker Than

Magazine issue 2872.

Editorial: “When it comes to defence, our priorities are wrong”

A LACK of cash could end the only survey dedicated to searching the southern skies for Earth-grazing comets and asteroids. That would create a blind spot in our global view of objects that could cause significant devastation should they hit Earth.

The Siding Spring Survey uses images from the Siding Spring observatory in Australia as part of the global Catalina Sky Survey, an effort to discover and track potentially dangerous near-Earth objects. Astronomers sift through virtually identical images of the sky, looking for moving objects.

Catalina uses a range of northern hemisphere telescopes – and the Sliding Spring Survey. But in October, Catalina cut off cash to the survey due to growing costs, caused partly by changes in the exchange rate between the Australian and US dollars. That decision was “very difficult”, says Steve Larson, who heads Catalina.

Since then, the southern survey has been limping along with temporary funding from the Australian National University in Canberra, but the extension is set to expire at the end of July, says survey operator Rob McNaught.

Full article here:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21528724.800-vital-eye-for-killer-asteroids-could-shut-imminently.html

Drakend July 8, 2012 at 5:20

@ljk
Thanks for your extensive reply to my post and for the following links. They’re quite interesting indeed!
One thing about people blaming politicians and “individuals who do know”: I think citizens all over the world, should a catastrophic meteor impact happen, should blame only themselves. We’re not in Middle Age anymore: information is avaiable to evreyone for free, it’s just that people isn’t interested at all in “complicated” things, that’s all. They all prefer wasting their life on facebook or some random porn site.
All this given there is someone left on the planet of course…

That aside I thought of a weird idea to change an asteroid deflection.
Sending on the asteroid surface some machine which extacts some of the asteroids soil, compacts it making a bullet and then fires it in open space. This would give quite a thrust each time a projectile is fired and can be powered with solar energy or nuclear energy as well.
It’s essentially a mass driver with a module to make its projectiles.
What do you guys think of it?

Ken_Space July 9, 2012 at 9:10

I assume Michael Spicer’s sincere plea for keeping politics out of the blog is made on the basis of believing NASA criticisms to be politically right wing. But I don’t think this has to be the case. I’m a lefty Brit & I don’t regard such comments about NASA being inefficient as necessarily coming from the right, just a reaction of frustration to the inevitable consequences of politicians changing the priorities every few years, & on the lack of much of a foreign competitor to create focus. It’s a reflection on politics – not whether from left or right.

ljk July 9, 2012 at 12:53

Drakend said on July 8, 2012 at 5:20:

“@ljk – Thanks for your extensive reply to my post and for the following links. They’re quite interesting indeed!

“One thing about people blaming politicians and “individuals who do know”: I think citizens all over the world, should a catastrophic meteor impact happen, should blame only themselves. We’re not in Middle Age anymore: information is avaiable to evreyone for free, it’s just that people isn’t interested at all in “complicated” things, that’s all. They all prefer wasting their life on facebook or some random porn site.

“All this given there is someone left on the planet of course…”

LJK replies:

Human beings are very much herd animals, despite our science and technology. They look to so-called authority figures for guidance and help. When something goes really wrong, such as Hurricane Katrina, the general public rarely puts on sackcloth and does penance: Instead they go looking for someone to blame and those are usually the authority figures, right or wrong.

This will be no different with an impact from space that does major damage and death. In fact I am reminded of The Simpsons episode where a giant space rock threatened to destroy the animated city. When disaster was ultimately averted, one character declared that they should burn down Springfield Observatory to make sure this never happens again! It’s supposed to be ironic, but you know there are people who would think that very thought. Those in the SETI business (what’s left of it for now) have received letters from concerned citizens who think that merely listening for the radio transmissions of alien intelligences will somehow alert them to our presence and bring them here to invade and plunder.

Drakend then says:

“That aside I thought of a weird idea to change an asteroid deflection.
Sending on the asteroid surface some machine which extacts some of the asteroids soil, compacts it making a bullet and then fires it in open space. This would give quite a thrust each time a projectile is fired and can be powered with solar energy or nuclear energy as well.

“It’s essentially a mass driver with a module to make its projectiles.
What do you guys think of it?”

LJK replies:

Not a bad idea and I am sure it has been considered before. Of course you better make sure you have years notice on a threatening space rock for this plan to work. And you better hope this automated system can keep functioning without maintenance for all that time, too.

Have you heard of the gravity space tug:

http://calitreview.com/1714

ljk July 9, 2012 at 12:57

Ken_Space said on July 9, 2012 at 9:10:

“I assume Michael Spicer’s sincere plea for keeping politics out of the blog is made on the basis of believing NASA criticisms to be politically right wing.”

Actually I find as far as Americans are concerned that it is often the Left which declares we should be spending money on human problems first before space, even though some space advocates emphasize again and again how little funding NASA and related agencies get compared to other agencies designed specifically to supposedly alleviate human suffering.

There was that recent spat from the Right via the Republican Presidential candidates who jumped on one of their own daring to say things that would have been considered right and forthwith circa 1962, but otherwise I find that group to be generally pro-space, though often in terms of military uses for the Ultimate High Ground. In the end, though, politics of all stripes have yet to seriously support space science and technology for its own sake.

ljk September 26, 2012 at 23:40

Study Looks at Making Asteroid Mining Viable

by Andy Tomaswick on September 25, 2012

Full article here:

http://www.universetoday.com/97582/study-looks-at-making-asteroid-mining-viable/

ljk October 26, 2012 at 15:05

26 October 2012

** Contact information appears below. **

Text & Images:

http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2012/deflecting-an-asteroid-with-paintballs-1026.html

PAINTBALLS MAY DEFLECT AN INCOMING ASTEROID:
WITH 20 YEARS’ NOTICE, PAINT PELLETS COULD CAUSE AN ASTEROID TO VEER OFF COURSE

In the event that a giant asteroid is headed toward Earth, you’d better hope that it’s blindingly white. A pale asteroid would reflect sunlight — and over time, this bouncing of photons off its surface could create enough of a force to push the asteroid off its course.

How might one encourage such a deflection? The answer, according to an MIT graduate student: with a volley or two of space-launched paintballs.

Sung Wook Paek, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, says if timed just right, pellets full of paint powder, launched in two rounds from a spacecraft at relatively close distance, would cover the front and back of an asteroid, more than doubling its reflectivity, or albedo. The initial force from the pellets would bump an asteroid off course; over time, the Sun’s photons would deflect the asteroid even more.

Paek’s paper detailing this unconventional strategy won the 2012 Move an Asteroid Technical Paper Competition, sponsored by the United Nations’ Space Generation Advisory Council, which solicits creative solutions to space-related problems from students and young professionals. Paek presented his paper this month at the International Astronautical Congress in Naples, Italy.

The challenge put forth by this year’s U.N. competition was to identify novel solutions for safely deflecting a near-Earth object, such as an asteroid. Scientists have proposed a wide variety of methods to avoid an asteroid collision. Some proposals launch a projectile or spacecraft to collide with an incoming asteroid; the European Space Agency is currently investigating such a mission.

Other methods have included detonating a nuclear bomb near an asteroid or equipping spacecraft as “gravity tractors,” using a craft’s gravitational field to pull an asteroid off its path.

Paek’s paintball strategy builds on a solution submitted by last year’s competition winner, who proposed deflecting an asteroid with a cloud of solid pellets. Paek came up with a similar proposal, adding paint to the pellets to take advantage of solar radiation pressure — the force exerted on objects by the Sun’s photons. Researchers have observed that pressure from sunlight can alter the orbits of geosynchronous satellites, while others have proposed equipping spacecraft with sails to catch solar radiation, much like a sailboat catches wind.

In his proposal, Paek used the asteroid Apophis as a theoretical test case. According to astronomical observations, this 27-gigaton rock may come close to Earth in 2029, and then again in 2036. Paek determined that five tons of paint would be required to cover the massive asteroid, which has a diameter of 1,480 feet. He used the asteroid’s period of rotation to determine the timing of pellets, launching a first round to cover the front of the asteroid, and firing a second round once the asteroid’s backside is exposed. As the pellets hit the asteroid’s surface, they would burst apart, splattering the space rock with a fine, five-micrometer-layer of paint.

From his calculations, Paek estimates that it would take up to 20 years for the cumulative effect of solar radiation pressure to successfully pull the asteroid off its Earth-bound trajectory. He says launching pellets with traditional rockets may not be an ideal option, as the violent takeoff may rupture the payload. Instead, he envisions paintballs may be made in space, in ports such as the International Space Station, where a spacecraft could then pick up a couple of rounds of pellets to deliver to the asteroid.

Paek adds that paint isn’t the only substance that such pellets might hold. For instance, the capsules could be filled with aerosols that, when fired at an asteroid, “impart air drag on the incoming asteroid to slow it down,” Paek says. “Or you could just paint the asteroid so you can track it more easily with telescopes on Earth. So there are other uses for this method.”

Contact:

Sarah McDonnell
MIT News Office
+1 617-253-8923
s_mcd@mit.edu

[ Written by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office ]

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