Sunday, September 20, 2015

How to Avoid Armageddon: A 3 Step Process

In the movie Armageddon we witness an asteroid in a collision course with Earth.  This is bad news for anyone on Earth as it is planet-wide extinction.  In the movie they try to drill into the asteroid and blow it apart with a nuke.  After figuring out the physics of blowing the asteroid, the conclusion is that it would have still hit the Earth.  After doing some digging I soon found out about a real life plan that NASA has to deter an asteroid.  NASA is planning to capture and asteroid of a significant mass and put it into a lunar orbit (an orbit around the moon).  When it is in the lunar orbit it can be manipulated to alter the path of the asteroid which is on a collision course with Earth.  This can work because everything has a gravitational field.  If we have a large enough chunk of rock orbiting the moon, we can manipulate it so it comes close to the doomsday asteroid which will alter its course and hopefully save the Earth.  In order for this to work, the rock we use will have to be a quite large one and might have unseen consequences on the Earth by sitting out there.  The tides will be affected if the object is a large enough one when it orbits between the moon and the Earth.  The object may also affect the moons orbit around the Earth.  If we can figure out what size this rock would need to be and also figure out how to avoid the tides from becoming ruined, then this can also be used as a checkpoint on the way to Mars as well as an asteroid deterrent.

The movie Armageddon has the plan to blow the asteroid into two pieces so that it would miss the Earth.  When doing the physics and giving each value the most favorable one, we were able to figure out that the asteroid would still have hit the Earth, but in two places instead of one.  This might have been more devastating for Earth and still would lead to an awful scenario.

1 comment:

  1. OK, you hit on an actual NASA plan - the Asteroid Redirect Mission. But I would have liked to have seen you go into a bit more detail (how are they going to capture the asteroid? how will they steer it toward the threatening asteroid when the time comes?) and maybe even give some links to other relevant sites.

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