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September 17, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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Science: What’s It Up To?

The end is nigh. No, really.

This week in ‘How We’re All Going to Die’—if rising sea level, nuclear annihilation, global food crisis, or the rapture don’t get us, then perhaps this will.

The Apophis asteroid is predicted to come dangerously close in 2029, and again in 2036 if it was just teasing the first time, which isn’t great news for those of us investing in Kiwi Saver or collecting limited edition My Little Pony toys, in the hope that one day they will be worth millions. Happily, however, NASA (the dudes who brought us the Mars Rover) have been coming up with plots to deter it before we graduate and have to assume the responsibility. Check this shit out.

  • Nuke it—self explanatory.
  • Give it a kinetic love tap to bounce it out of the way (some say nuking it is going too far).
  • Paint it white to change the amount of
  • radiation it absorbs, which will divert its path.
  • Attach a solar sail to it, to catch solar radiation and divert its path.
  • Put it in a net to divert it—apparently this works in a similar way to the above two.
  • Point mirrors at it—strategically positioned mirrors could concentrate solar rays, heat a small portion of an asteroid’s surface, and cause it to spew vapours. As this material ejects from the asteroid, it would provide a little thrust to alter the space rock’s path.
  • Strap a rocket to it, and use the thrust from that to divert the path of the asteroid—simple!
  • Tow it with gravity—theoretically, all we’d have to do is navigate a hefty robot close to the asteroid and tow it away with the gentle, gentle pull of gravity.
  • Have robots munch on it—The idea is to send nuclear-powered robots to a threatening asteroid, where they’d land and begin mining or “chewing” into the surface of the rock. They would then eject these fragments into space at high speed via electromagnets (my favourite).
  • Send Bruce Willis up there to sacrifice himself for the good of humanity—he’s had practice.

It is a real concern, not just a (fantastic) Hollywood plotline. A repeat of the mass extinction at the Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary that killed nearly all life on earth (including our bros the dinosaurs) is something we might want to avoid.

But don’t worry about it too much, there are more pressing things on the world’s governments’ minds, this is basically a quick fix. I mean, the US defence budget last year was greater than the cumulative running budget of NASA since it started in 1958. Priorities in order.

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