China has proposed firing 23 missiles at an asteroid. This is intended as a rehearsal for an emergency situation.
It sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, but it could soon take place in reality: The China National Space Science Center has proposed to bombard an asteroid with 23 rockets. This is intended to test how the direction of flight of a celestial body can be deflected. These findings would be important in the event that a larger asteroid ever heads directly toward Earth and humanity is looking for a way to rescue it.
It has already worked in simulation
As reported by Reuters news agency , Chinese researchers have calculated in a simulation that a larger asteroid could be successfully diverted from hitting Earth with 23 Long March 5 (LM5) missiles, each weighing 900 tons, if those missiles detonated simultaneously at specific locations on the asteroid. The trajectory, according to the researchers, could be shifted by up to 9,000 kilometers, which would then cause the asteroid to miss Earth by a safe distance.
The researchers assumed an asteroid the size of the “Bennu” asteroid, i.e., 566 x 542 x 499 meters. Such an asteroid would cause enormous regional and continental damage upon impact with Earth. For an asteroid larger than 1 kilometer, global damage would be expected.
Deflecting a dangerous asteroid is considered more promising because after a blast, asteroid pieces could still hit Earth and cause damage. Bennu” itself is not dangerous at the moment, but it could become a potentially dangerous asteroid for the Earth, but only towards the end of the next century.
Speaking to the Chinese newspaper South China Morning Post, one of the researchers involved said that humanity could protect itself from such a threat from an asteroid in the next 10 years even with nuclear-free technology.
NASA already planning asteroid bombardment
NASA is also planning to try out in practice a first such experiment in human history, according to the report. As part of the project “HAMMER” (Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergence Response).
For this purpose, a spacecraft is to be launched into space at the end of this year or in early 2022, which is to fly to two asteroids that are orbiting close to each other in the vicinity of the Earth. The spacecraft will then hit one of the asteroids, which will then be used to measure how the direction of flight of one asteroid changes compared to the other asteroid.
The Chinese believe their approach is both cheaper and faster to implement: with the rockets, they say, an asteroid could be deflected as soon as 10 years after its discovery. NASA, on the other hand, would have to detect the asteroid 25 years earlier.
Asteroid impact on Earth is unlikely
However, there is no need to worry about an impending impact of a larger asteroid on Earth. The probability that the Earth will be hit by an asteroid over 100 meters in size in the next 100 years is 1 in 100. The probability that an even larger asteroid could hit is many times lower.