The best way to deal with a killer asteroid hurtling towards Earth could be a “gravity tractor“.
Two NASA astronauts, gently mocking the solution offered in Armageddon have come up with a plan to pull asteroids off course. Dr Edward Lu and Dr Stanley Love propose that a rocket be launched into space, effectively to act as a giant magnet.
The gravity tractor would hover alongside the asteroid, with its thrusters pointing outwards so the exhaust does not affect the surface. The tractor would then pull the asteroid off course, merely using the gravitational pull between the two bodies.
The scientists calculate that, with sufficient warning, a 20 tonne gravity tractor could safely deflect an asteroid 200 metres across in about a year of towing.
“By using gravity as your tow line, you can sidle up to an asteroid. Maintain it for a year and that should give it enough nudge to miss the earth 20 years later,” Love adds.