A team of scientists from the National Space Science Center (NSSC), in China, has come up with a new technique to divert potentially dangerous asteroids.
The new technique consists of a spacecraft capable of collecting more than one hundred tons of rocks from an object close to Earth and then colliding with the asteroid, changing its trajectory.
It is an improved version of the concept of kinetic impact for the deflection of potentially dangerous asteroids to Earth. The results of the study were published this week in the journal Nature.
According to the new investigation, the spacecraft in question would be unmanned, and its mission would be to collect more than one hundred tons of rocks from an asteroid close to Earth so that they could be used to strike the other potentially dangerous asteroid.
Computer simulations carried out by Chinese scientists show that this technique is more effective than a classic kinetic impact.
Speaking to Chinese news agency Xinhua, Li Mingtao, one of the authors of the new investigation stresses that the new technique is not limited by the need for a ground-based launch of an artificial impactor, promising to significantly increase planetary defense against large asteroids.
Although it is unlikely that an asteroid will hit Earth in the next few years – the probability is 1 in 300,000, according to NASA – space agencies and scientists around the world have been joining efforts to improve programs aimed at monitoring and diversion of these objects on a collision course with Earth.
Many planetary defense technologies have been proposed, including nuclear explosions, kinetic impacts, laser ablation, among others.