Although no astral object larger than a kilometer is expected to threaten Earth for the next several hundred years that could result in a global disaster, members of the UN Office for Outer Space (UNOOSA) are not taking any chance. They proposed over the weekend for an international warning system that could track asteroids and generate the earliest possible red flags of potential collisions.
Screenshot from NASA Video NASA video showing asteroid 2012 DA14 crossing the Earth
The recommendations for an International Asteroid Warning Network came just days after Asteroid 2012 DA14 narrowly went past Earth. Had a collision happen, there was the possibility of entire cities being flattened or destroyed.
DA14 was spotted a year before it whizzed past the planet last week, but on the same day, a meteor unexpectedly hit Russia and hurt 1,500 people when it exploded over Chelyabinsk.
Sergio Camacho, chairman of the UN Action Team on Near-Earth Objects, admitted that if the proposed measures had been established and put in place earlier, there would have been more observation and better understanding and education on what to expect instead of a surprise like what happened in Russia.
The recommendations, however, must be formalised by the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space to be formally approved during the UNOOSA session in June and eventually submitted to the UN General Assembly.
Besides monitoring near-Earth objects, the proposed international body would also establish a contingency plan to minimise damage in the event of an impact on Earth and seek technology to deflect these objects away from the planet.
In the U.S., following the rejection by the White House of a petition to construct Death Star which would blast rebellious planets, a group of California scientists led by University of California physicist Philip Lubin and California Polytechnic State University researcher Fart Hughes pushed for their proposal to build the Directed Energy Solar Targeting of Asteroids and exploration that would gather energy from the Sun and direct lasers at approaching objects.
Details of the proposal unveiled include the construction of a satellite called DE-STAR 2 which would be the size of the International Space Station with capability to nudge large asteroids into safe orbits. Another is DE-STAR 4 capable of vaporizing a rock within a year and DE-STAR 6 that could propel a 10-tonne spacecraft at almost the speed of light which would make possible interstellar travel.
"This system is not some far-out idea from Star Trek. All the components of this system pretty much exist today. Maybe not quite at the scale that we'd need scaling up would be the challenge but the basic elements are all there and ready to go," News.com.au quoted Mr Hughes.
NASA is reportedly studying an idea by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student Sung Wook Paek. The novel idea, presented in an article in Digital Journal titled "Spaceballs, a possible viable defense against asteroids," involves dusting an approaching asteroid that threatens the Earth with a thin coat of paint to alter the reflective qualities of the lump of space debris and change the amount of sunlight reflected by an asteroid on an Earth trajectory. It would produce the Yarkovski effect wherein the dusk side becomes warmer than the dawn side and cause the dusk side to radiate more thermal protons that would cause the asteroid to alter its course.