INTERACTIVE CHELYABINSK QUIZOn 15 February 2013, a fireball blazed across the sky over the Ural Mountains in Russia. The asteroid broke up over the Chelyabinsk region, injuring inhabitants below and leaving destruction in its wake.
AN INTERACTIVE VIDEO OF THE CHELYABINSK EVENTRe-experience February 15, 2013. The day a meteor exploded over Russia
QUIZ: Are you a rock star?Play our fun asteroid Quiz!
Are there any plans to land a space probe on an asteroid and to use thrusters or an explosion to study what the change in trajectory would be? – A user submitted Question
The only officially studied concept by space agencies to change an asteroid’s trajectory using a direct interaction is the AIDA project in collaboration between NASA and ESA, and which consists of testing the kinetic impactor techniques.
The concept is to perform a hyper-velocity impact onto the asteroid using an artificial projectile. The resulting change in trajectory, for a given impact energy (related to the mass and impact speed of the projectile) depends on the asteroid’s structure and in particular on the production of ejecta due to the impact. The higher the amount of ejecta, the greater the change (to keep it simple, because it also depends on the ejecta’s directions). A test will validate the techniques and tell us whether our expectations are correct or far from reality, and this will teach us a lot for a real case.
Other concepts that rely on a landing or a surface package add complexity for at least two reasons: one is that the design of the device that needs to be in contact with the surface highly depends on the surface properties (coping with sand is very different from coping with bare rock), and unless we have a precursor mission telling us what these properties are, we’ll be faced with many assumptions. The other, which is related to the first is that the gravity on a small asteroid is extremely small and therefore depending on the planed action, it may be necessary to anchor, and the design of the anchor agains depends on the surface properties. In fact, we still have a poor understanding of the behavior of a surface in low-gravity, especially when it is made of granular materials (sand, gravel), which is believed to be the case for most asteroids. So, this is not easy, and we could see this with Philae on Rosetta. As for thrusters, even if we were able to deploy them and make them remain on the surface, we have to recall that asteroids rotate on themselves, sometimes very fast, and if you want to thrust in one direction, then you’re in big troubles.
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