Scientists at the Chinese National Space Science Center have conducted research into the possibility of using the Long March 5 carrier rockets to change the path of potentially dangerous asteroids, the South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday.
One of the hypotheses in the works is reportedly to launch 23 Long March 5 rockets at the same time from different parts of China. Each rocket will be equipped with a deflector — a device designed to prevent the asteroid’s destruction. Their job will be not to crash the threatening space object but rather push it away from the Earth.
It will take the rockets three years to reach the target asteroid in this “doomsday scenario,” according to the report.
With regard to engineering, this scenario will only need some minor modifications to the rockets, such as adding a few small engines. The fuel, if not used up during the launch, will give the rockets an additional thrust during their flight towards the asteroid, while the fuselage will increase the total mass of the deflector.
This method, according to the scientists, will only help change the trajectory of an asteroid the size of Bennu, which is 0.3 miles in diameter. But even this will only be enough for the asteroid to fly safely at a distance of around 1.4 times the Earth’s radius, which means that not all cities will be saved from destruction.
Conversely, if nuclear power is used to destroy the dangerous asteroid, risks remain that it will fall apart and the chunks may still harm our planet.
In another development, NASA believes that space debris may pass dangerously close to the International Space Station on Thursday, but the Russian space agency Roscosmos does not consider that there is a threat to the station, Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin said on Wednesday.
“Houston saw the threat of an unidentified object (‘space debris’) approaching the ISS tomorrow by up to 4.8 km [3 miles] with a moderate probability … We agree only in the assessment of the distance. We do not confirm the threat, we continue to observe,” Rogozin tweeted.NASA expects space debris to approach the ISS on Thursday at 13:16 GMT.
The space station’s orbit might be adjusted depending on how closely the debris will approach, Roscosmos said.
“If the data on the dangerous approach is confirmed, a decision to correct the station’s orbit will be made either 28 hours or 6 hours before the anticipated event,” the space agency said on its website.
Roscosmos’ surveillance tools predict the debris to fly some 4.584 kilometers from the space station.
The 65th expedition is working on the ISS at the moment. It includes Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov, NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hai, Shane Kimbrough, and Megan MacArthur, Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and the French commander of the mission, Thomas Pesquet.