As an asteroid roughly half as large as a football field readies for a fly-by of Earth on Friday, February 15, 2013, two scientists are unveiling a system that could—in one hour—eliminate a threat of this size.
The same system could destroy asteroids 10 times larger than the one known as2012 DA14 in about a year, with evaporation starting at a distance as far away as the Sun.
Philip M. Lubin, a physicist and professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Gary B. Hughes, a researcher and professor from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, conceived DE-STAR, or Directed Energy Solar Targeting of Asteroids an exploRation, as a realistic means of mitigating potential threats posed to the Earth by asteroids and comets.
“We have to come to grips with discussing these issues in a logical and rational way,” says Lubin, who began work on DE-STAR a year ago. “We need to be proactive rather than reactive in dealing with threats.
“Duck and cover is not an option. We can actually do something about it and it’s credible to do something. So let’s begin along this path. Let’s start small and work our way up. There is no need to break the bank to start.”
Described as a “directed energy orbital defense system,” DE-STAR is designed to harness some of the power of the sun and convert it into a massive phased array of laser beams that can destroy, or evaporate, asteroids posing a potential threat to Earth.
It is equally capable of changing an asteroid’s orbit—deflecting it away from Earth, or into the Sun—and may also prove to be a valuable tool for assessing an asteroid’s composition, enabling lucrative, rare-element mining. And it’s entirely based on current essential technology.
Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald