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  • Space Ponder Writers

A Relatively Simple and Effective Solution to Avoid Catastrophic Impacts

Updated: Jan 27

Throughout history, Earth has faced numerous threats from space, and perhaps one of the most menacing is the potential impact of a large asteroid. While the odds of such an event occurring are relatively low, the consequences could be catastrophic, leading us back to the dark ages or even wiping out advanced civilizations. Recent evidence suggests that an asteroid impact may have been responsible for the demise of an advanced civilization around 15,000 years ago.


To address this looming danger, a groundbreaking AI-Enabled Asteroid Deflectors (AIAD) proposes a feasible solution to deflect asteroids before they become meteorites. This article delves into the technology, cost, and potential benefits of this crucial system, emphasizing the urgency of prioritizing such efforts over other space missions.


The AI Asteroid Defence System

The AIAD harnesses existing technology to protect Earth from potential asteroid impacts. The system relies on small probes designed to land on asteroids and then deploy AI-enabled instruments akin to Starlink satellites. Deploying a fleet of AIADs allows for extensive coverage and rapid detection of potential threats before they get too close to Earth's orbit. AI capabilities enhance the detection process, enabling the system to identify the most dangerous asteroids swiftly and accurately.


Deployment and Orbital Manoeuvres

SpaceX can play a role in launching the AIADs into space. With the ability to launch 400 Starlink-like probes in a single launch, three launches would provide 1,200 AIADs, a great force against potential threats. These AIADs would be positioned at the outer edges of Earth's gravitational influence, ensuring they can efficiently fire their engines in prograde or retrograde manoeuvres to intercept and alter the orbits of threatening asteroids.


Cost-Effectiveness and Feasibility

Safeguarding humanity from asteroid impacts doesn't require an astronomical budget. The estimated cost of deploying 1,200 AIADs stands at £140 million or approximately $185 million, making it a relatively affordable endeavour given the gravity of the threat it mitigates. Moreover, the cost could be further reduced to around $60 million per launch, making it an even more cost-effective option for protecting our planet from potential disaster.


Prioritizing the AIAD Mission

In the face of such existential risks, it becomes paramount to prioritize the development and deployment of the AI Asteroid Deflectors. While ambitious missions to the Moon and Mars capture the imagination, focusing on our planet's immediate safety should take precedence. Allocating resources and efforts to the AIAD mission showcases humanity's commitment to protecting its future and preserving its advances.



 


Understanding Orbital Mechanics

To effectively deflect threatening asteroids, it is essential to comprehend the intricacies of orbital mechanics. Objects in space, including asteroids and AI Asteroid Deflectors (AIADs), move in predictable paths known as orbits. Two fundamental points on an orbit are the periapsis and apoapsis. It's really simple once you get to know orbital mechanics.


Periapsis and Apoapsis

  • The periapsis refers to the point in an orbit where an object is closest to the body it orbits around. In the case of Earth, this would be the point closest to our planet. Conversely, the apoapsis is the farthest point in an orbit from the body it orbits, which, in this case, would

be Earth's farthest point. Understanding the periapsis and apoapsis is vital for calculating optimal trajectories to rendezvous with asteroids and successfully deflect them.



Rendezvous

  • Once the AIADs are deployed in their designated orbits, they must be ready to perform the delicate dance of rendezvous with potentially hazardous asteroids. Rendezvous is the process of bringing the AIAD and the target asteroid together for interception and deflection.

2020 HS₇ is a very small asteroid classified as a near-Earth object of the Earth-crossing Apollo group.

Detecting Potential Threats

  • The AI capabilities of the probes are crucial at this stage. The AIADs continuously scan the celestial sphere, scrutinizing near-Earth objects and analysing their trajectories. By evaluating various parameters, such as size, velocity, and trajectory, the AIADs identify asteroids that pose a significant risk of colliding with Earth.


Calculating Optimal Trajectories

  • Once a potential threat is identified, the AIAD calculates an optimal trajectory to reach the target asteroid. It takes into account the relative positions of the AIAD, the asteroid, and Earth, as well as the time required for interception. The goal is to choose a path that minimizes energy expenditure and maximizes the efficiency of the deflection manoeuvre.


Orbital Transfers and Gravity Assists

  • To efficiently reach the target, the AIAD performs orbital transfers. These transfers involve firing its engines at strategic points in its orbit to change its velocity and move to a new trajectory. The AIAD may execute several orbital transfers to align its orbit with that of the target asteroid. In some cases, AIADs may utilize gravity assists to conserve energy during their journey. A gravity assist occurs when an AIAD passes close to a celestial body, such as Earth or another planet, using its gravity to gain speed and redirect its trajectory. Gravity assists can significantly enhance the AIAD's velocity and help it reach the asteroid more swiftly.



Final Rendezvous and Deflection

As the AIAD approaches the target asteroid, it fine-tunes its trajectory using small thrusters for precise alignment. When in close proximity to the asteroid, the AIAD deploys grappling mechanisms or anchors to establish a secure connection. With a stable connection established, the AIAD's engines activate, imparting a gentle yet decisive force on the asteroid's surface. The AIAD may apply a gentle push to alter the asteroid's trajectory, causing it to veer away from its collision course with Earth.


Thanks to the formidable AI capabilities onboard, human intervention is minimized, streamlining the entire process. The AI handles intricate calculations, ensuring precision and efficiency throughout the mission. Only the final step of firing the engines to change the asteroid's orbit necessitates human interaction.


And due to the inherent sensitivity of an asteroid's orbit to propulsion, significant changes can be induced even to the extent of moving the asteroid beyond Earth's gravitational influence.


Final Thoughts

By leveraging AI and the capabilities of space exploration leaders like SpaceX, we can affordably deploy a network of AIADs similar to that of starlink that will stand vigilant at the outer reaches of Earth's gravitational influence.


Prioritizing this crucial mission can avert the grim prospect of regression to a Stone Age existence, ensuring that humanity continues to thrive and explore the cosmos, armed with knowledge and technology. In the face of this existential challenge, let us unite and focus our efforts on securing the future of our species. Let's not make our progress all be for nothing.


Hopefully the next iterations of the DART mission will get us closer to a decent defence system. Back in 2022, it was confirmed that crashing intae the asteroid, changed its motion slightly. Until then, we're left unprotected.


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