Russians Propose a Trip to Asteroid Apophis To Save the Earth
.Anatoly Perminov, the chief of the Russian Space Agency, is suggesting a cooperative venture including NASA, the European Space Agency, the Chinese and possibly other space agencies to begin work on a ship that will rendezvous with the asteroid Apophis before 2032 in order to change the asteroid’s orbit, lest it become a serious danger to earth.
The 885 foot asteroid was discovered in 2004 and calculations predict the large space rock will pass by earth at about 18,300 miles in 2029…much too close for comfort. The year 2036 gives the best odds for an impact with Apophis at 1:45,000.
There are several different approaches to altering an asteroid’s orbit. One way would be to have a spacecraft simply orbit the asteroid, thus altering its orbit very subtly over a long period of time. The direct approach is have a space probe collide with the asteroid, altering its trajectory quickly. Of course the far end of the spectrum is to use a nuclear warhead to destroy the space rock. There are complications and dangers with each approach.
Asteroid strikes in earth’s past have likely been the cause of some of the sudden mass extinctions, such as when the dinosaurs died off. It is very likely that the Caribbean was hit by an asteroid right by the Yucatan peninsula producing the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event 65 million years ago.This was the last truly huge extinction event caused by an asteroid strike, but there have been many smaller strikes, averaging about one every 500,000 years for rocks in the 1km size range.
Here is the question: should man alter the solar system environment? Everywhere man goes he changes the environment. There is now so much “space junk” in orbit around the earth that it is becoming a serious hazard to the space station. Imagine if we nuked an asteroid? But man MUST alter his environment to survive. As soon as Adam plowed and planted the first field the environment was altered.
I would suggest that a trip to the asteroid Apophis would be well worth the expense but that the minimal approach be used to alter its trajectory. While we are at it, examine the asteroid for any precious minerals. Who knows, there might be gold in them thar asteroids!