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16 December 2015

Problematic asteroids could be pushed off course by gentle thrusts

When faced with the threat of large Earth-bound asteroids, some have suggested deflecting the rocky bodies by striking them with large objects. Others prefer to nuke them. But planetary astronomer Michael Busch takes a less violent approach: he suggests we deflect dangerous asteroids without ever touching them.

Busch, an astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute in Mountain View, California, studies gravity tractors: special spacecraft designed to pull problem asteroids away from destructive trajectories and onto benign paths. He said the technology could come alive within the next decade through NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission. Busch presented his team’s research on gravity tractors at the 2015 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco.


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