Ar­maged­don outta here

Focus-Science and Technology - - CONTENTS -

In the Au­gust is­sue (325) I read about the ex­cit­ing and po­ten­tially life-sav­ing NASA and JAXA mis­sions for the OSIRIS-Rex and Hayabusa2 space probes. But the pos­si­bil­ity of min­ing as­ter­oids gave me pause for thought. Is it pos­si­ble that the change in com­po­si­tion and mass of the as­ter­oid could af­fect its tra­jec­tory and bring about the very disaster we are hop­ing to avoid – namely a di­rect col­li­sion with Earth?

Jude Pount­ney, via email

It’s the­o­ret­i­cally pos­si­ble, but prac­ti­cally speak­ing, the dis­tances in­volved are so in­cred­i­bly vast that the change in mass needed to al­ter the as­ter­oid’s or­bit sig­nif­i­cantly would need to be im­pos­si­bly huge. And the odds of ‘get­ting it right’, so to speak, by ac­ci­dent are as­tro­nom­i­cal (no pun in­tended). If you wanted to do it on pur­pose, how­ever, that’s a dif­fer­ent story…

– Daniel Ben­nett, editor

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