Have you heard of 99942 Apophis? If you haven’t, it’s a 46 million tonne, 1,600 foot wide asteroid that’s currently hurtling our way. Before you rush off and start packing and preparing for shelter, not to worry as it is said to safely pass Earth somewhere around 2029.
However there’s a slim chance of the asteroid passing through a slim gravitational keyhole, a 600 mile of space that apparently would turn the asteroid around and put it back on its way to hit Earth somewhere in 2036. Not looking to take any chances, Chinese researchers from Beijing’s Tsinghua University have revealed their plans to smash the asteroid off its current trajectory, making sure there’s absolutely no chance of the asteroid entering the gravitational keyhole.
The plan is to build a 10kg solar sail which they will then orbit around the Earth to build up to a speed of 90km/s by the time it smashes into the asteroid. Sounds like something out of a movie, doesn’t it? But it’s all too real, so let’s hope that they succeed! Word has it that the European Space Agency has similar plans by sending two spacecrafts to the asteroid, one of which will attempt to smash into it, while the other will observe the impact for further studies.
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