We finally have tested a concept for how to deflect an asteroid, and it worked more than 25 times better than expected. Movies like explosions, but most ways to avoid a collision with an asteroid are more subtle. One concept is subtler than an explosion but still energetic. NASA’s DART mission was an attempt to change an asteroid’s orbit by hitting the asteroid with a satellite. The video shows that the satellite hitting the asteroid, but there’s no frame of reference, no perspective that shows that the asteroid and the satellite were moving several times faster than a bullet. NASA effectively hit a super-fast bullet with a super-fast bullet, hitting that target at over a million miles from Earth. They hoped to change its orbit by 73 seconds. They changed the orbit by 32 minutes, minutes, not seconds. Asteroid defense concepts do not have to destroy the asteroid, simply change its orbit by enough time for it to miss our planet.The Earth is moving about 67,000 miles per hour, or about 8.4 diameters per hour, or about one diameter every ~7 minutes. Catch an asteroid early enough to divert its orbit by 8 minutes and it can avoid the planet, no nukes required. Catch it early enough and it is possible to divert the asteroid gravitationally, or by other non-violent methods and the nudge happens without debris. Now that we know this way can work we can try those other ways, too.
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