While an asteroid impact might be a distant possibility for now, China is bracing for such eventuality by announcing a plan to launch rockets into space to deflect such threats away from Earth.
China Space Agency Targeting Asteroid Bennu for Practice Hit
China's National Space Science Center said that it is targeting the asteroid Bennu, a 1,614 feet (492 meter) wide rotating rock-based mass with an orbit that will send it within 7.5 kilometers from Earth by the year 2175 to 2199.
By that time, Bennu would have been classified as potentially dangerous, having a 1 in 2,700 chance of slamming on the Earth, The Daily Mail UK noted.
China, however, expects that the impact of 23 "Long March 5" rockets, each weighing 900 tons, would take the asteroid 5,592 miles off its current course.
With its potential devastating effect on our planet, initiatives around the world have been pushed to deflect space rocks on collision course with the Earth. By late this year to early 2022, NASA is set to launch a robotic spacecraft to intercept two asteroids expected to whizz near the Earth. The U.S. space agency is planning to crash that rocket on smaller asteroid to determine how its course would change, Slash Gear posted.
NASA Lining Up HAMMER Mission for Asteroid Deflection
Called HAMMER or Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response, the vehicle is a U.S. study aimed to probe the efficacy of utilizing spacecraft as a kinetic or nuclear asteroid deflector, Daily Mail UK added. To set an asteroid off-course, 34 to 53 HAMMER strikes need to be launched 10 years before the space rock--such as Bennu--hits the Earth, NASA simulations showed.
With a 25-year lead time for the HAMMER mission to commence, such a figure of asteroid hits could be reduced to about seven to 11 individual launches.
Asteroids, if it collides with the Earth, may cause regional or continental destruction. An asteroid larger than one kilometer is said to cause global damage. In changing the course of asteroids, scientists believe this is a better option than blowing up the space rocks into smaller pieces using nuclear warheads. After all, it would not change the asteroid's path since the remnants would still be on collision course with Earth.
In knocking an asteroid off its course, such as the Bennu asteroid China is aiming at deflecting, a significant amount of kinetic energy is needed, which a nuclear-powered explosion could emit. But because of the potential destructive impact of a nuclear approach, China is considering a nuclear-free technique in ten years.
The Chinese approach would have multiple rockets hit the surface of Bennu at once after three years of travel from the Earth. The effectiveness of the spacecraft, called the Assembled Kinetic Impactor, would be enhanced by not separating from the rocket's upper portion, giving the spacecraft extra mass to complete the impact.