How The Sun Might Protect Us From Future Asteroid Disasters

Two large flying space rocks have hit or almost hit Earth lately. I think everyone agrees that this needs to not be happening. So two California researchers are developing a plan for destroying asteroids in space. Get after it.

The idea is to use the sun's intense energy to vaporize asteroids as big as five football fields across through a system called Directed Energy Solar Targeting of Asteroids, an exploRation (DE-STAR). The mechanism would use a phased array of laser beams orbiting around the earth and powered by solar energy to destroy asteroids and comets or change their trajectory so they will bypass earth. The system could also be used to analyze the asteroid's composition and one day facilitate rare-earth mining.

Physicists Philip Lubin of University of California, Santa Barbara and Gary Hughes of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo started working on the DE-STAR proposal a year ago. Their designs incorporate only available technology, though they admit that some of it would be a challenge to implement on such a large scale. Hughes and Lubin outline a number of DE-STAR possibilities, where the apparatus is anywhere from desktop computer-sized to six miles in diameter.

Lubin says,

Our proposal assumes a combination of baseline technology - where we are today - and where we almost certainly will be in the future, without asking for any miracles . . . Duck and cover is not an option. We can actually do something about it and it's credible to do something.

Not sure we're totally out of the space opera woods yet, but we might as well start spit-balling since this threat isn't going anywhere. [UC, Santa Barbara via Futurity]

Image Courtesy of Philip M. Lubin