AS­TER­OIDS AS WEAPONS?

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I was par­tic­u­larly ex­cited to read “How Do You Catch a Beast?” in the last is­sue. For­tune fa­vors the bold, and it is very bold that com­pa­nies are tak­ing the con­cept of mak­ing as­ter­oids work for us in space off the draw­ing board and im­ple­ment­ing it in real life. I won­der about other po­ten­tial as­ter­oid uses: Would it be the­o­ret­i­cally pos­si­ble to har­ness smaller as­ter­oids to de­liver tar­geted strikes on Earth? Henry Ja­cobs via email

One of the gen­eral chal­lenges of reel­ing in a space rock is the pos­si­bil­ity of an as­ter­oid that’s be­ing towed to Earth or an as­ter­oid frag­ment “un­in­ten­tion­ally” and “un­con­trol­lably” fall­ing into Earth’s grav­i­ta­tional field, crash­ing down to the sur­face and in­flict­ing tremen­dous dam­age. Ac­cord­ingly, it’s the­o­ret­i­cally pos­si­ble to use an as­ter­oid as a gi­ant pro­jec­tile, but in prac­tice an “as­ter­oid sling­shot” would be too com­plex and im­pre­cise (es­pe­cially com­pared with nu­clear weapons).

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