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How Paintballs Could Force an Asteroid Off Course

A novel idea suggests that solar radiationpressure could be far more effective.

The idea is to increase an asteroid's reflection ability of sunlight and take advantage the force of bouncing photons to push an object off its course. To do so, Sung Wook Paek, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, proposes to fire two rounds of paint-filled pellets from a spacecraft to cover objects such as asteroids in "blindingly white" color.

The initial force from the pellets could bump an asteroid off course, Paek said, but the sun’s photons would deflect the asteroid even more. However, this should not be considered an emergency procedure. In his paper, Paek calculated that the 27-gigaton, 1,480-ft diameter rock Apophis, which will be near earth in 2029 and in 2036, would need 5 tons of paint to be covered entirely with a five-micrometer-layer of paint.

The effect of solar radiation would not be seen immediately, but it would take about 20 years of solar radiation pressure to take the asteroid off its path. And there may be another problem. The "violent" takeoff of a rocket may not be suitable to deliver paintballs to an asteroid. Instead, Paek suggests making paintballs in space at space stations, from where spacecraft could pick up paintballs as needed.

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  • noob2222
    lol, only 20 years for it to alter its course
    Reply
  • Just a nickname
    "Sung Wook Paek, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics"

    Like if only graduate student in MIT can think at stupid things like that. Yea let's go paint some asteroids, cuz you know atomic bombs are so expensive. What about 5+ tons of paint. What kind of news is this?
    Reply
  • cats_Paw
    I got an idea, everyone post one idea to rock the asteroid of its course, lets see who comes out with a better idea. Here is mine:
    Launch into space some rockets that will not explode, but attach to the rock from one of the sides and then turn on to modify its Trajectory enought to avoid earth. As far as i know, in space the only forces to atract a comme is gravitation, so if for an asteroid to hit earth it must have a certain path, modifing it by just a bit (far enought thou) should send it far away enougth. Well we still have a 2012 comming, right? :D.
    Reply
  • greghome
    noob2222lol, only 20 years for it to alter its course
    It's only gonna hit us in less than 20 years.
    oh well, get stocked up on weapons and get in your hibernation pods.
    We're gonna play RAGE :D
    Reply
  • wanderer11
    Cats_PawI got an idea, everyone post one idea to rock the asteroid of its course, lets see who comes out with a better idea. Here is mine:Launch into space some rockets that will not explode, but attach to the rock from one of the sides and then turn on to modify its Trajectory enought to avoid earth. As far as i know, in space the only forces to atract a comme is gravitation, so if for an asteroid to hit earth it must have a certain path, modifing it by just a bit (far enought thou) should send it far away enougth. Well we still have a 2012 comming, right? .You are forgetting about inertia. A rock the size of Earth has a lot of inertia and will take more than one of our tiny rockets to make a change in its path.
    Reply
  • ojas
    would need 5 tons of paint to be covered entirely with a five-micrometer-layer of paint
    Isn't there something messed up here?
    Reply
  • greghome
    Just a nickname"Sung Wook Paek, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics"Like if only graduate student in MIT can think at stupid things like that. Yea let's go paint some asteroids, cuz you know atomic bombs are so expensive. What about 5+ tons of paint. What kind of news is this?
    the problem with nukes is, the explosion might just split the rock into a thousand tiny pieces which makes it even harder to deflect afterwards.
    not to mention, the rocks will be radioactive when they come hurling at you.
    There are also international treaties banning the use of nukes in space, though That can easily be put aside in the name of saving the earth, you are still talking about stopping a Gigatonne rock with a Megaton payload..... :P
    Reply
  • nebun
    wow....such stupidity...prove it and I will believe it
    Reply
  • fuzzion
    Shooting 5 tonnes of Paint at an oblong object , in space, moving incredibly fast with some sort of device capable of doing so. Ok , so one has been holding the bong for far too long!
    Reply
  • Some of the comments here remind me of how most of the experts (REAL experts that is) said that if an aircraft were to break the sound barrier it would vibrate itself apart based on their data when approaching MACH 1. It took a brave few to prove them all wrong.

    While this idea may seem implausible (though more impractical if the NEO is closer than 20 years out) to me, I have to admit that most of the science involved is way over my head.
    Reply