Even the most unlikely of plans have the potential for greatness. Sung Wook Paek, an MIT graduate, came up with one such proposal, and it could be what saves humanity. It involves paintballs and giant asteroids. It’s crazy, but it just might work.
According to Space.com, Paek came up with a potential life-saving scenario in which a spacecraft would fire two rounds of pellets full of white paint powder at an asteroid in an effort to deflect it away from Earth. This idea, by the way, won the 2012 Move an Asteroid Technical Paper Competition, so people are taking it very seriously.
The initial force from the paintballs would nudge the asteroid slightly off course, Paek says. And the pale paint job resulting from the splattered pellets would more than double the space rock’s sunlight reflectivity. More photons bouncing off the asteroid’s surface would enhance solar radiations pressure and bump it further off course.
This is about as far away from Michael Bay’s Armageddon as it gets.
Paek’s proposal used a 900-foot-wide asteroid as an example, which is what most scientists believe is the likeliest of candidates to one day impact Earth. It would apparently take 20 years for enough solar radiation pressure to successfully pull an asteroid off the Earth’s past, and five tons of paint.
“It is very important that we develop and test a few deflection techniques sufficiently so that we know we have a viable ‘toolbox’ of deflection capabilities to implement when we inevitably discover an asteroid on an impact trajectory,” said Lindley Johnson, program manager for NASA’s Near Earth Objects Observation Program.