Asteroid Deflection: How, where and when?

TYPEAstrophysics Seminar
Speaker:Prof. Daniele Fargion
Affiliation:Physics Department, Rome Univ.1

To deflect impact-trajectory of massive and spinning km3 asteroid by a few terrestrial radiuses one need a large momentum exchange. The dragging of huge spinning bodies in space by external engine seems difficult or impossible. Our solution is based on the landing of multi screw-rockets, powered by mini-nuclear engines, on the body, that dig a small fraction of the soil surface to use as an exhaust propeller, ejecting it vertically in phase among themselves. Such a mass ejection increases the momentum exchange, their number redundancy guarantees the stability of the system. The slow landing (below ≃ 40cms−1) of each engine-unity at those very low gravity field, may be achieved by safe rolling and bouncing along the surface. The engine array tuned activity, overcomes the asteroid angular velocity. Coherent turning of the jet heads increases the deflection efficiency. A procession along its surface may compensate at best the asteroid spin. A small skin-mass (about 2 · 104 tons) may be ejected by mini-nuclear engines. Such prototypes may also build first safe galleries for humans on the Moon. Conclusive deflecting tests might be performed on remote asteroids. The incoming asteroid 99942 Apophis (just 2% of km3) may be deflected safely a few Earth radiuses. Its encounter maybe not just a hazard but an opportunity, learning how to land, to dig, to build and also to nest safe human station inside. Asteroids amplified deflections by gravity swing may be driven into longest planetary journeys, beginning i.e. with the preliminary landing of future missions on Mars’ moon-asteroid Phobos or Deimos.