NASA Scientists are working on developing a giant space “shotgun” capable of knocking an asteroid off collision course with Earth. New York-based engineers Honeybee Robotics – an interplanetary exploration specialist – has been commissioned to develop the concept for the Nasa Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM).
The idea behind it is not to blow up an asteroid, as this could potentially make things worse sending hundreds of smaller meteorites crashing into the planet. It would, instead be to hit one with enough force to steer it away so it passed as a safe distance. Currently, there is next to nothing that could be done to prevent a significant asteroid on a collision course with us from crash to earth. If it was a rock of a size significant enough to threaten life on earth (500 metres and upwards), the change of direction would probably have to take place about 100 years before it got here.
The shotgun could also be used to get samples from asteroids and test the strength of them as they are in orbit. Kris Zacny, vice president at Honeybee Robotics, said the concept will also be “key” to sending sending humans to Mars in the future. If the gun is developed, chunks of asteroids will be dislodged out of orbit and sent closer to the moon, where they would be more accessible to experts.
A Honeybee Robotics spokesman said one risk with collecting samples from asteroids is “the unknown geotechnical properties and strength of the asteroid…