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View Diary: Can we stop an object from hitting the earth? (108 comments)

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  •  Indeed (8+ / 0-)

    we could. If we can nudge it away, we can nudge it toward us. But if the goal is huge destructive force, it would probably be a lot easier and cheaper to make a bunch of h-bombs and vehicles to carry them. We know how to do that already.

    •  You don't even need a missle... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DarkSyde, annieli, Calamity Jean

      ...you could stick it in an old freighter.

      Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

      by JeffW on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 08:23:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I don't think so... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DarkSyde, JeffW, Helpless, rb608

      It takes more h-bombs than we have, to destroy all microbial life on earth.  Furthermore, there are tight watches kept on nuclear materials and nuclear testing.  And a bomb on a freighter (as Jeff describes elsewhere) would target one city and start a war we would ultimately win.  They would be destroyed, although we wouldn't particularly like losing the city.

      It seems easier to me to send small probes out close to NEO asteroids and leave them out there making scientific "observations."  The implicit threat wouldn't need to be stated, and the effectiveness of the threat wouldn't even have to be verifiably real to be of defensive value.

      A good question then is this: If some other country we don't trust, like China or Iran or Pakistan, were to begin sending such probes up for "scientific" purposes, would we try to prevent it?  

      Or, what if some other country we didn't trust were to send up alleged asteroid deflection probes with the purpose of PROTECTING the earth as some commenters suggest.  Would we even permit that?  And if we didn't permit it, how would we stop it?

      •  I (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ender, Calamity Jean

        have nothing against microbes, I'm not a like metazoanist, but really, the difference between a full nuclear exchange and a K-T impact is rather academic. We'd all probably die either way. But if I had to choose, I think I'd go with the impact.

        •  Of course, there are different sizes of (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Helpless, Noodles, rb608, Calamity Jean

          asteroids, and they all have different orbits with different potential impact appointments.  The Chicxalub meteor that wiped out the Cretaceous was a whopping  6 miles in diameter, but that's actually kind of puny when you think about it, isn't it?  Because there are bigger ones out there.  Ones that are bigger that could incinerate the planet to molten lava or smaller ones that could just wipe out most of a continent, if targeted correctly.  

          A much, much smaller asteroid could be tweaked so it doesn't hit the continent at all, but, instead, targets the ocean and causes massive tidal coastal waves, wiping out major industrial centers on the east coast, for example.  A country that is mostly land-locked and/or that has no Atlantic coastal presence might face a much smaller environmental risk from this.

          It seems to me that as a privatized space industry makes the technology for such things off-the-shelf, the cost of R&D for implementing such a thing will decline.

          Thinking about this some more, there's also the possibility of some country deciding to "mine" the asteroids, for instance by finding some metal-heavy asteroid and bringing it back to earth orbit for "safe" orbital mining and zero-gravity construction.  I've heard plenty of talk about how we need to beat the Chinese to do this if we want to maintain our technological and industrial (not military) edge in the future.  In this case, we would be essentially turning asteroids that AREN'T in close earth orbits into near earth orbits for industrial purposes.  We aren't anywhere near that, but it's worth considering that if and when we ever do have to consider this, that we're also talking about exterminating all life on earth.

          Suppose a multinational like Halliburton decided to mine the asteroids this way.  Who would tell them not to do it?  The Republicans in Congress?  Hah.  And if they screw up and kill us all, who would we sue?

          •  The ultimate environmental impact (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            rb608

            Something like.  

            "We are absolutely certain there is no way one of our captured asteroids will get away and impact Earth."
             

            or

             

            "Using the strictest protocols, we will constantly monitor the targeted asteroids' orbits and will never mine one to the point where it's orbit is altered to ever impact Earth."
            Any object whose orbit intersects Earth's orbit will eventually collide with the Earth.  And since the Earth is traveling 67,062 miles per hour in it's orbit, any such collision is not going to be a simple fender bender.

            Even Democrats can be asses. Look at Rahm Emanuel.

            by Helpless on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 03:44:38 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  You could possibly crash the gold market as well (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            rb608, Dumbo

            Or the platinum market or even the nickel market with the right find. Some speculate there may be asteroids rich enough in those or other heavy or rare earth metals to do so. Which could even lead to economic terrorism of a sort along with the dominance of an actual resource in a given market.

        •  Except that the whole point is that it wouldn't (0+ / 0-)

          be a full nuclear exchange, just one or two nukes by some rogue country.  Now compare a few nukes to a few large asteroids.

          You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

          by Throw The Bums Out on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 02:36:55 AM PST

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        •  Have you read Lucifer's Hammer? (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          FlyingToaster, DarkSyde, dancerat

          Fun scifi read about an asteroid & Earth.

          Even Democrats can be asses. Look at Rahm Emanuel.

          by Helpless on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 03:31:27 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

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