Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Kicking Asteroids


Dr. Edward Lu was a physicist at Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy before being chosen as an astronaut. In 2003 he spent 6 months aboard ISS. Back on Earth, he has been studying the problem of dangerous asteroids. He is part of the B612 Foundation, named for the Little Prince's home. With fellow astronaut Stan Love, he has proposed a "gravity tractor" to deflect an asteroid's orbit.

Last week Edward Lu, astronomer Nick Kaiser and others gave a presentation for us at the University of Hawaii. The system would use the spacecraft's small gravitational field as a tractor beam to gently tug an asteroid. If a tiny change is made early enough, the cumulative shift would turn an Earth encounter into a miss. The nudge might have to be made decades in advance, so it is good to start planning now.

To quote that other movie from 1998, ARMAGEDDON:

"In the Book of Revelations, the Bible speaks of a final day on Earth, when all mankind shall perish, shall cease to exist. This day is known as Armageddon...for the first time in the history of this planet, a species possesses the technology to prevent its own extinction."

Of all life on Earth, the human species is uniquely adapted for spaceflight. Hands with opposable thumbs for building things, capacity to cooperate toward a common goal, the desire to expand one's horizons are all useful traits. Recently I have found that our skin can be adapted for Space. Exploration of Space is an imperative for survival.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Darnell Clayton said...

Good to see more people posting about this (I think you and a couple others are the only ones that I saw).

This "space tractor" is probably the only thing that will work against these space rocks.

Regarding your revelation quote, the book actually speaks of three objects hitting planet Earth (and none of them have anything to do with Armageddon, which doesn't even refer to humanity perishing...no clue where Hollywood pulled that one from).

The first sounds like an asteroid in Revelations 8:8 while the next one sounds like a very nasty comet.

Keep up the great posts! ;-)

1:27 PM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Thanks, Darnell! This blog will strive to post what you won't find elsewhere. Hollywood movies (WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE, METEOR, ARMAGEDDON, DEEP IMPACT) nearly always have multiple impacts. The little objects zero in on picturesque landmarks to emphasise the threat. The Big One then threatens to destroy humanity!

3:35 PM  
Anonymous Darnell Clayton said...

Hey RioFrio,

Thanks for the comment. I think a link exchange sounds great. I've already linked to your site, and feel free to browse the list and check out what other scientists, engineers, or space enthusiasts (like me) are writing about).

9:02 PM  

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