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2019-01-08 06:50 by Karl Denninger
in Musings , 212 references Ignore this thread
NASA, Science And Asteroids
[Comments enabled]

NASA is sending a spacecraft called "DART" to intentionally hit an asteroid.

It's all part of a NASA mission in development called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART. Unlike most spacecraft the agency has launched to date, DART isn't about gathering scientific data and learning more about how the universe works. Instead, it's NASA's first planetary-defense mission.

It's actually an intelligent thing to do.

We know (from the holes previous impacts have made) that area-trashing-sized asteroids hit the Earth about once every 10,000 years or so.  The size of a rock necessary to do severe damage on a global scale is surprisingly small; Armageddon (the movie) called the rock "the size of Texas" but that's way, way off.  A one mile diameter asteroid would devastate if it hit land, but the simple math is that the planet is 70% water, so the odds are it would come down in an ocean.  Even so such an impact would likely have global consequence.

A space rock a couple of miles in diameter would be much worse.

The one that killed the dinosaurs is believed to have been about 6 miles in diameter and produced an impact crater more than 100 miles across!  The energy released by such an impact makes all of our nuclear weapons together look like a firecracker.  An impact of that size today would likely kill upwards of a quarter of all humans, even with our technological advancement, due to starvation and utterly destroy the economies of every nation on the planet.  Recovery would take decades or even centuries, not years.

Earth is hit by small (~10' across or less) asteroids almost literally on a daily basis, but they don't get to the ground.  They're small enough that they burn up or explode in the atmosphere.  Occasionally one gets close enough to the ground before it explodes to make for a nice light show and break a few windows from the percussion; there was one in Russia a few years back that was famously caught on video.  Then there are the somewhat-larger ones that happen a lot less frequently but leave plenty of physical evidence (Tunguska); it's simply good luck (odds, in other words) that it's very rare for anything big enough to do damage to come down in a populated region.

But the inevitability of such an event large enough to play hell with the planet is a fact.  And while it sounds easy to divert something a few miles across it's not if it's close; the amount of energy required is enormous.  Time is your friend in such events provided you discover the risk early enough since even a very tiny change in course over tens or hundreds of years turns in impact into a miss -- or a miss into an impact!

So getting it right is important, but even more-so is figuring out that it's going to happen long before it does.  The idea of diverting something at the last minute is likely folly, but given enough warning it's certainly possible.

We have the technology to do this today -- if we spend the money and time to make sure we really can do it, and understand where the barriers are in terms of amount of trajectory change we can actually impart and thus how much advance notice we need.  What we don't have at present is any sort of global buy-in; that should be trivial to achieve, given that if one of these events occurs it will screw everyone, not just one nation or another (although if it comes and hits your country somewhere it really will suck to be you -- it's just that "suck" is a relative term at that point.)

NASA does a lot of stuff that is of questionable value, but this isn't on that list.  If there's one program that makes lots of sense and in the grand scheme of things is a lowball cost item this one's it.

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Aveteam
Posts: 135
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This definitely makes more sense than pouring any more time, money and effort into the whole globull warming scam.

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"The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie"

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Tickerguy
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Oh definitely.

Because in our future, somewhere, the planet WILL get hit by something big enough to **** us. It's simply a matter of time.

Today we CAN, using present technology, prevent that impact. IF we detect it early enough, and then spend the resources to deflect it. A very REASONABLE amount of impulse at a distant enough point in time will result in a sufficient change in trajectory that the rock misses us.

The longer you wait the more energy it takes, and then the task becomes impossible. Blowing it up is not a good idea either, because one or more of the PIECES may be large enough to do serious damage and blowing it up now creates a LOT of pieces instead of one piece, all of which now have to have THEIR trajectories recalculated and, potentially, interdicted. It's likely a very bad idea to blow it up (or try to), but it's a very GOOD idea to put enough impulse into it far enough out in time that what was an impact is now a miss.

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Ktrosper
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TG wrote..
turns in impact into a miss -- or a miss into an impact!

True. In a weird way, they are developing the most powerful weapon the world has ever seen.

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Flaps10
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Many of us here are praying for that asteroid Karl.
Gianmarko
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just wait till the environazi start screaming about polluting the pristine asteroid environment with man-made artifacts...
and advocating for spending the money instead on green new deals, or more welfare programs.

just to put things in perspective, imagine the energy of a .50BMG bullet and the damage it makes. that weights 40 to 50 grams (1.3 to 1.6 ounces), and travels at 2800ft/sec

an asteroid would hit the ground travelling at roughtly 57,000 ft/sec and weight somewhat more...

re nasa.
the US defense budget is over 700 billions for 2019.
the entire Apollo program, that had almost half million people working at it for over 13 years, and where entire technologies had to be developed from scratch, costed about 140 billions. or about 7 weeks worth of quantitative easing.

but look at the bright side. an asteroid would wipe out lots of parasites, and make the world again unsafe for them. all we had to do then is NOT making it again safe for them.

Eaandkw
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Another consideration of moving or blowing up an asteroid is if one country does it but the aftermath affect a different country. Imagine if a smaller asteroid was going to hit the U.S. and we moved or blew up the asteroid and the impact was in China or Russia. This is something that probably should not be done on a individual country basis. Then again the other countries might just say screw it you *ucked.

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Flappingeagle
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I've always thought that "blowing it up" was a strategy that would be useful against two different very narrow size-ranges of asteroids. Those that would do meaningful damage that you can't deflect in time but yet the pieces would do minor to no damage and, a bigger one that would do horrible damage versus pieces that would do bad damage. An analogy would be, would you rather be shot with a slug or with buckshot or hopefully just birdshot.

All things considered though, a clean miss is superior to any of the above.

Flap

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Tickerguy
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The problem with blow it up is that you can't predict the trajectory of the pieces ..

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Gianmarko
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"blowing up an asteroid"

blowing up an asteroid would not do. it would be more than one object but same trajectory and total energy. might actually even be worse.

i think scott manley has a very god video on YT about this issue.
Pilot
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Im a Sci FI guy and there are many really good stories about Alien intelligence's using large rocks to destroy or cripple whole planets. You dont need anything other than the ability to get it going in the right direction to be a planet killer. Even a few "smaller" rocks can do quite enough damage as karl points out.

This is a GREAT use of my tax dollars!

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Curbyourrisk
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This is probably something COUNTRIES could probably work on together and build some good will toward each other. I know it is worth forking over the whole bill if it meant saving a couple million people, but with more money and more minds working together - maybe we could be more productive.

Then again, if we all tried to work together, what are the odds of anything actually getting done.

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Time is up.

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Djloche
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Maybe some of the pieces destroy DC

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Tickerguy
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I would pay real money to aim at it..

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Beango
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Incidentally, there is an asteroid called Apophis that will have a close flyby in 2029 and again in 2036. CURRENT projections are that it will miss. But you never know if some gas jets that the asteroid farts out might change that. Its only a quarter mile wide, but still plenty large enough to do some serious global damage.

Additionally, the program to HUNT asteroids is called Neowise.

Tickerguy
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That would be perfect size on DC...

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Eleua
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Quote:
The problem with blow it up is that you can't predict the trajectory of the pieces ..


Anyone who grew up in the late 70s/early 80s knows this. smiley

inline

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Tsherry
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Steer those babies just enough to lock them into a trajectory to hit the Sun, and then listen to a chorus of idiots complain that we're going to impact climate....

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Omne mendacium est.
Tickerguy
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smiley

Yep

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Radiosity
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Pilot: yep. Starship Troopers, Stratos 4, Stargate SG-1, to name just a few from three different mediums. We could also add Babylon 5, technically, since the Centauri use mass drivers to bombard the Narn homeworld. Nothing like taking asteroids and dropping them on the heads of people you don't like.

Karl: "The energy released by such an impact makes all of our nuclear weapons together look like a firecracker."

Now let's imagine a nefarious state puts satellites in orbit capable of dropping, oh, let's say tungsten rods on a country they don't like. Who needs nukes, right?
Flappingeagle
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I believe that you are looking for something about this size for D.C. Went there this summer, it was worth the stop.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteor_Cra....

Quote:
The object that excavated the crater was a nickel-iron meteorite about 160 feet (50 meters) across. The speed of the impact has been a subject of some debate. Modeling initially suggested that the meteorite struck at up to 45,000 mph (20 km/s) but more recent research suggests the impact was substantially slower, at 29,000 mph (12.8 km/s). It is believed that about half of the impactor's bulk was vaporized during its descent through the atmosphere.[13] Impact energy has been estimated at about 10 megatons. The meteorite was mostly vaporized upon impact, leaving few remains in the crater.[14]


Flap

----------
Here are my predictions for everyone to see:
S&P 500 at 320, DOW at 2200, Gold $300/oz, and Corn $2/bu.
No sign that housing, equities, or farmland are in a bubble- Yellen 11/14/13
Trying to leave the Rat Race to the rats...
Mj71
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A fun little jaunt into earth-shattering kabooms:

https://what-if.xkcd.com/20/

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And... It's gone.
Uraki66
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Kansas
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The Japanese are much more advanced on this. In the Gundam universe, we build colonies in space at the Lagrange points and then as part of the war, they are dropped on the earth.

Sounds much more civilized to me, you get the benefit of building the huge space colonies (think of the graft!) and then the mobile suits (MIC FTW!) to fight the wars (damn space colonists don't want to follow "earth rules") and then drop the colonies on the earth so you have to pay to rebuild (and kill billions in the process)!

Why worry about asteroids when you can build your own! (and pump the debt bubble for another 100 years or so!)

http://gundam.wikia.com/wiki/Operation_B....

Sorry for the off-topic post, but I thought we were all praying for this asteroid.
James56287
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Quote:
Now let's imagine a nefarious state puts satellites in orbit capable of dropping, oh, let's say tungsten rods on a country they don't like. Who needs nukes, right?


Better than a nuke. All of the fun, none of the fallout.

Reason: Fixing tags
Keenan
Posts: 302
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Western PA
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Pilot, Radiosity: RE SF

Niven & Pournille's "Footfall". Can't figure why Hollywood hasn't made that into a film.
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