Responding to the potential threat of an asteroid hitting Earth, Chinese scientists propose defenses

Asteroid impact is a major potentially catastrophic threat to life on Earth, the probability of occurrence is very low, but the harm is very great, how to deal with human ity has been a matter of concern. Reporter 26 from the Chinese Academy of Sciences National Space Science Center was informed that the Chinese Academy of Sciences complex space system electronic information technology key laboratory Li Mingtao, Wang Yirui, Wang Youliang, Zhou Weihong, Zheng Wei and other scientific research team, the latest research proposed to deal with large-scale potential threats to asteroids ,” “stone-struck” defense program, for the proactive response to the potential threat of asteroid impact on earth provides a new and effective option.

Responding to the potential threat of an asteroid hitting Earth, Chinese scientists propose defenses

The concept of a “stone-struck” planetary defense mission. Research team for pictures

Responding to the potential threat of an asteroid hitting Earth, Chinese scientists propose a “stone-struck” defense

Responding to the potential threat of an asteroid hitting Earth, Chinese scientists propose defenses

The “Stone with Stone” planetary defense mission program. Research team for pictures

The concept of “stone-striking” enhanced kinetic energy impact planetary defense mission can break through the carrying capacity and envelope limits of ground-launched man-made impactors, and significantly improve the mass of the impactor by capturing 100 tons of mass rocks in space, and ultimately achieve a quantitative increase in the asteroid defense effect. In addition, the “Stone with Stone” planetary defense program can also integrate asteroid exploration and planetary defense, in planetary science also has a high research value.

Li Mingtao said that in 2017, 2018 and 2019 three consecutive asteroids hit The Shangri-La region of Yunnan Province, Xishuangbanna in Yunnan Province and Songwon in Jilin Province, sparking a heated debate in the community and the importance of the academic community for planetary defense research. Planetary defense is generally through active means, including nuclear explosion, kinetic energy impact, laser ablation, ion beam traction, gravitational drag, mass drive, etc., to destroy the structure of the asteroid or deflect the orbit of the asteroid.

In response to the problem that classical kinetic energy impacts cannot effectively defend against large-scale asteroids under short warning time conditions, the scientific research team of the Chinese Academy of Sciences proposed the concept of a “stone-struck” enhanced kinetic energy impact planetary defense mission, which will capture more than 100 tons of rock from unmanned aerial vehicles or collect more than 100 tons of rocks on gravel-pile asteroids, form a composite impact with the spacecraft, manipulate the combined impact of the combined body to impact an asteroid that poses a potential threat to earth, and deflect the asteroid from the orbit of the Earth.

Li Pointedo points out that compared to the classic kinetic energy impact method, the orbital deflection effect of the “stone-struck” scheme on asteroids can increase an order of magnitude, providing a new option for defending against large-scale potential threats to asteroids. He cites the Apophis asteroid, which is about 350 meters in diameter and weighs about 61 million tons, as an example of the asteroid’s closest distance to Earth in 2029 will be about 38,000 kilometers, and simulations show that the apopfis asteroid is deflected by a classical kinetic energy impact method by about 176 km, while the “Stone with Stone” program will have a deflection distance of about 1866 km to the Apopfis asteroid.

This important research paper of Chinese scientists in the field of asteroid collision defense has recently been published online by The Scientific Report, a comprehensive international academic journal of Springer-Nature Publishing Group, who evaluates the “stone-struck” program as “a novel, interesting and potentially very efficient method for defending dangerous asteroids”.