MOSCOW (UPI) — One way to protect earth from the risk of asteroid collisions would be to use tame asteroids in a serious game of cosmic billiards, Russian scientists suggest.
Several near-Earth asteroids could be towed closer to Earth to serve as a cache of celestial projectiles against incoming space threats, Natan Eismont of the Space Research Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences said.
The orbiting captured asteroids could be “lined up” so that one passes 50,000 to 100,000 miles from Earth every few weeks or months, ready to be used as projectiles to target non-catalogued and hazardous asteroids, research by the Space Research Institute and the Higher School of Economics in Moscow suggested.
“I was skeptical about it myself, until we actually tried to do computer modeling of the situation,” Eismont, one of the project’s authors, told RIA Novosti.
It is currently possible to send an unmanned Proton rocket — a staple of the Russian space program — to land on an asteroid, carrying up to 2 tons of rocket fuel, Eismont said.
Properly anchored, the rocket fuel could then ignite at a designated time, changing the tame asteroid’s orbit to intercept an asteroid dangerously approaching Earth and diverting it.
The program would cost about $1 billion per Proton launch, he said, and the equipment needed to maneuver an asteroid into position could be developed within 10 to 12 years.
“Nobody can tell you when the next asteroid will come, but everyone would tell you that come it will,” Eismont said.