back to article NASA: Bring on the asteroid, so we can chuck a fridge at it

NASA has okayed one of its save-the-world-from-asteroids proposals to move to the preliminary design phase, on the way to a hoped-for launch early in the 2020s. If it goes ahead, the DART – Double Asteroid Redirection Test – will start with what the space agency describes as “a non-threatening small asteroid”. That way, …

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It's true. The asteroids will want revenge, after NASA has belted this one with a fridge.

But we could just tell them, to chill.

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And where does it end? The oort cloud retaliates, and we do the same and before you know it every one is trying to comet genocide.

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Happy

I'm sure we can sort this out like civilised beings.

I know we gave them a quick Hale-Bopp. But after a Swift-Tuttle, I'm sure they'll forgive us.

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"But after a Swift-Tuttle, I'm sure they'll forgive us."

Is that even legal in most civilised jurisdiction?

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Nnnooooo!

Everyone knows the next level of escalation after a Hale-Bopp is an MMMBop that will end us all.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=NHozn0YXAeE

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Gordon 10 you evil bastard! your link should have a warning on it!

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Mushroom

I was expecting Mr Astley's finest - not sure if that's any better...

Yes, from orbit ->

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I still prefer the pool table idea from Red Dwarf! Fridges may contain beer and bacon!

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Velocity?

around 6 km per second (“about nine times faster than a bullet”

Many of us in the old world are not really familiar with how fast a bullet travels - is it time for a new Reg Standards Bureau unit? The 'velocity of a sheep in vacuum' is a bit limited.

A tractor on a country road on August Bank Holiday?

The "dead cert" I had a tenner on in the Grand National?

And we could probably derive a unit of acceleration due to gravity based on observation of the speed of a £DUP as it falls off a magic money tree to the ground.

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Re: Velocity?

You're not supposed to be informed. You're supposed to be impressed.

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Facepalm

Re: Velocity?

"A tractor on a country road on August Bank Holiday?"

Speed of a caravan on the A82?*

**

*In case you're not Scottish, this is the main road from Glasgow to the West Highlands. Almost single-track in places.

**Not just on August Bank Holiday, because a caravan on the A82 takes all summer to get from Dumbarton to Crianlarich.

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Pirate

Re: Velocity?

"Many of us in the old world are not really familiar with how fast a bullet travels"

just rough ballpark - the bullet from a .223/5.56 NATO round is zipping along at around 6531 Linguine/sec. The 7.62 projectile from an AK-47 is somewhat slower at around 5107 Linguine/sec. There's a speedier round called the .204 Ruger that zips along at 9144 Linguine/sec with a lightweight bullet. By comparison, the .45 ACP pistol bullet is barely flying at 1850 Linguine/sec.

So, eh, there's a lot of potential variance in his comparison of "nine times faster than a bullet".

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Trollface

Re: Velocity?

Who said the bullet had to be moving? If the bullet is still sitting in the chamber it's only going as fast as the schlup lugging the gun around...

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Trollface

Re: Velocity?

Not really, considering the chamber itself is zipping around at about 30km/s at all times, as far as we can tell...

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Pirate

Re: Velocity?

" If the bullet is still sitting in the chamber it's only going as fast as the schlup lugging the gun around..."

So... if NASA puts a loaded gun in the fridge, then it's not technically going nine times faster than a bullet, it's going the exact speed of a bullet.

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Of the known asteroids (potentially threatening or otherwise), how many are binaries?

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Two

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Joke

10.

FTFY.

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Cool stuff!

well, it is a refrigerator, after all

Oh dear, puns getting that bad this early in the week? Doesn't bode well, I'd better get me coat

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cool stuff!

You need to chill.

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Re: Cool stuff!

Absolutely!

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How many points does NASA get for that?

From "The Book"

There was one inhabited planet in the seventh dimension that got used as a ball in a game of intergalactic bar billiards. It got potted straight into a black hole, killing ten billion people.

It only scored thirty points.

I wonder if they can arrange a canon off it's larger twin?

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Happy

Re: How many points does NASA get for that?

There's a very silly (and enjoyable) free-download game called Pluto's Revenge, which involves exactly that. Pluto has a baseball bat and whacks asteroids at the other planets. Because it's miffed at being downgraded from true planet status.

Also has a deeply weird soundtrack.

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Look

Give Dave Lister a load of booze and a snooker table, and he'll deal with any asteroids ok?

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Mushroom

Non-threatening

Well, it _was_ non-threatening...

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Re: Non-threatening

"Well, it _was_ non-threatening..."

...until some numbskull NASA bloke decided to recycle his old fridge and send it on a one-way trip to some rock...

At least we have until "the early 2020's" to enjoy ourselves and not have to worry about too much...like Trump, Brexit, Syria, Russia, China, IS, the Tories, Corbyn, Putin, North Korea, Microsoft, Musk, TOWIE, Bake Off, Strictly, Murdoch, England teams.....so, not many will remember the odd case of a 160m wide mini-asteroid being sent off course and no doubt delivering a huge surplus of raw materials to the soon to be depleted Earth.

I wonder if NASA could sell the asteroids mineral wealth to the highest bidder and hence ensure an expedited delivery direct to the end customer !!

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Happy

Re: Non-threatening

@Timbo and the Comentariat. Am I the only one that now has Billy Joels "We didn't start the Fire" going round my head?

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404
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Re: Non-threatening

Yes.

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Forward-looking statements should be removed from the glossy prospectus

Only a small change in a threatening asteroid's orbit would be needed to swing it away from Earth, as long as it happens “well before the predicted impact”.

I missed the part where this "well before the predicted impact" warnings comes and we actually have the technological capacity to do anything at all about said impact withjin a 20y timeframe.

I'm really starting to hate nerds who watch Sci-Fi and then go to NASA.

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Re: Forward-looking statements should be removed from the glossy prospectus

Well, modify the security- and cost-obsessed current space project setups to be result-oriented.

Then give it 5 years and just 10% of NATO's combined budget and we'll probably be fine...

But I agree : Observing it earlier would take a lot of stress out of that project...

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Overstating the effect needed

Only a small change in a threatening asteroid's orbit would be needed to swing it away from Earth, as long as it happens “well before the predicted impact”.

A collision occurs when the asteroid and the Earth are at the same place at the same time. Since the Earth's diameter is only 13,000 km, and the asteroid would be impacted at say 500 million away, it only needs to be slowed down by less than a millionth of its orbital speed to avoid its orbit passing through the Earth's orbit at the instant that the Earth was also at that point. Passing through the Earth's orbit six hours later than the Earth passes through the same point would more than sufficient. This is more "imperceptibly slowing it down" than "swinging it away".

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Size matters

Are we talking about a small, under the worktop fridge or one of those American style fridges that can double as a small bedsit?

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Joke

Re: Size matters

Neither, everyone's reading it wrong.

They're not going to throw *a* fridge, they're going to throw *The* Fridge!

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404
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Re: Size matters

Even with armor pads, he's too squishy to throw at a comet. Need something solid, like Trump's head...

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Pint

Re: Size matters

They're not going to throw *a* fridge, they're going to throw *The* Fridge!

Have a Perry Sir ->

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Anonymous Coward

Time to update the old joke

What's the similarity between a Martian* girl and a fridge?

They both drip during re-entry**

*Insert region you wish to insult here.

** Desmond Llewelyn RIP.

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Must be a British idea

Does NASA truly expect us to believe that anyone in America takes darts seriously enough to come up with this idea?

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Re: Must be a British idea

Turn of the century I was living in N Cal, up in the Gold Country we had a darts league, I was a member of the local team. There were a few ex-pats like me playing but mostly yanks, there were quite a few of them who could throw a pretty mean dart and aerospace bods are a dime a dozen in N Cal.

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William Perry

Never mind Bruce Willis - from the headline, I thought they meant...

this guy

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'a non-threatening small asteroid'

Once we've hit it with a fridge it might go from 'non-threatening' to bloody furious.

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Re: 'a non-threatening small asteroid'

Prof. Timothy Fielding: I'm sorry, I'm sorry! Can I put this into some sort of perspective? When I caught Gerald in '68 he was completely wild.

Gerald, the Gorilla: Wild? I was absolutely livid!

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Maths anyone?

If we know the mass of the fridge, impact velocity and the mass and velocity of the asteroid - shouldn't we know what's going to happen?

Realistically, if we have a big lump of rock coming at us, does anyone think that 3 years is enough time to get ready for it? Nobody even spotted the Chelyabinsk meteor - had that been a nickel rock, somewhat larger, we'd still recovering (if we were lucky). Does anyone wonder if there are bigger lumps in the meteor streams that we pass through every year?

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Bah!

Fools!

The response of the enraged Clangers to this unprovoked attack will be swift, decisive and permanent.

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Re: Bah!

The response of the enraged Clangers to this unprovoked attack will be swift, decisive and permanent.

Well... it depends what's in the fridge...

They might regard it as a most welcome food parcel, after years, and years, and years of bloody soup!

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Doing the math, at least a little

Let's see...

Maximum change in asteroid velocity would require a direct hit normal to the surface.

Deviations from a normal impact will 'waste' energy changing the angular momentum, but not affect the velocity of the body.

Assuming a direct impact normal to the surface (ie... in line with the centre of mass)...

Mass of NASA object ... I believe I read somewhere that it was one ton? one tonne?

Let's go with tonne...

Velocity of DART approximately 6,000 m/sec.

Stony asteroids range from about 3 - 5 gm/cm^3, or 3 - 5 tonnes/m^3.

Lets go with 3 tonnes / m^3.

Diameter of smaller asteroid is about 160 m. Estimate mass at 3 x (4/3) x 80^3 x pi, or roughly 6.5 million tonnes.

Maximum velocity change is thus on the order of 6,000 m/sec / 6.5 x 10^6 or about .00093 m/sec, or .9 mm/sec.

But... this is unlikely to be enough to break up the binary asteroid pair, so gravity will couple the two masses, the second of which is about 780 m in diameter, thus with a mass on the rough order of (780/160)^3 = 116 times greater, implying a probable maximum change in velocity of the asteroid pair of about .9 / 116 = .0078 mm/sec.... or less if the energy gets converted into spin, or potential energy in the binary pair?? (need to think about that some more... it's been a long time since I've had to do physics).

Someone with a better grasp of orbital mechanics will have to tell us how much that will change the orbit of the asteroids...

Yes, I know there are various assumptions of geometry and material, etc, here, but this is order of magnitude stuff, not an exact solution.

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Coat

Re: Doing the math, at least a little

Mass of NASA object ... I believe I read somewhere that it was one ton? one tonne?

A one tonne fridge! Where are the noodles?

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More energetic choices...

A long time ago I read a study on asteroid deflection that was assuming a relatively short (approximately two year) time frame before impact.

What they thought would do the job was half a dozen 100 megaton warheads.

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This is an outstanding idea. Asteroids are the only way to travel round the Solar System.

For the foreseeable future it's going to take a looooong time to get from A to B in our solar system, which means you'll get cooked by a lot of radiation.

Those elaborately crufted Aluminium cans that NASA, ESA, JAXA, ISRO are the Chinese build have roughly the radiation protection equivalence of 0.5% of the Earths atmosphere. OTOH 3m of Mars regolith will give you radiation protection equal to Earths atmosphere.

But that's a damm heavy lump of mass to get into LEO.

Asteroids are already in orbit. Even a small one one packs a huge amount of internal volume, and can still give you 3m thick walls.

This is the start of an actual viable way for humans to explore the Solar System.

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Door

I guess they're assuming that nothing is living inside the Asteroid. Just in case we haven't had enough Science Fiction today, or any day.

When I read the article, I thought that they would land their equipment (softly) on the larger of the pair and then use that as the base to launch the fridge at the smaller. Thus the momentum of the pair would be maintained. That's not what the video showed. And depending on how the larger is rotating, it could introduce uncertainty into the question of whether they'll hit the smaller at all. English probably needs a new expression for poor aim, because: "What's a barn, Daddy?"

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