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Thread: Tag an Asteroid, Win a Prize

  1. #1
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    Post Tag an Asteroid, Win a Prize

    The Planetary Society is offering a $50,000 prize for the best plan to reach out an put a tracking beacon on near-Earth asteroid Apophis (AKA 2004 MN4). Apophis is approximately 400 metres across, and it's expected to pass very close to the Earth in 2029. And on that pass, it could receive a gravitational bump to its orbit that could make it even more dangerous in 2036. With better tracking, scientists will have a much better idea if Apophis really is a risk to Earth. The competition ends August 31, 2007.

    Read the full blog entry

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    I've got a good idea, but I can't post it since I could really use the $50,000.

    OK, I don't actually have an idea yet, but when I do have an idea I really shouldn't share it here. This could be a short discussion thread.
    Forming opinions as we speak

  3. #3
    I think it is great to start thinking ahead. However isn't 2029 still 23 years away. We have no idea what technology will be availabe when it is realy time to start constructing some sort of device to tag the thing. Maybe by then we can "beam" it over. Aren't there any close pases between now and then that might make it possible to tag it sooner and thus gather data sooner.

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    I think it is great to start thinking ahead. However isn't 2029 still 23 years away. We have no idea what technology will be availabe when it is realy time to start constructing some sort of device to tag the thing.

    The time to start constructing a tag is NOW. As you say, we have no idea what technology will be available in the future -- for all we know, the future's technology could be no better than today's. Tagging Apophis is just the start; once we figure out whether Apophis is going to pass through the keyhole in 2029, we're going to have to figure out what (if anything) to do about it. The sooner we start collecting data, the more time we'll have to act if it turns out that Apophis is going to hti the Earth.

    There are also more general benefits to an ASAP mission to Apophis. As far as I know, we've only once attempted landing on an asteroid (the Hayabusa mission); our total number of successful landings is zero. Since our best current plans for deflecting a killer astroid all involve landing on it, that track record doesn't inspire much confidence...

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    Quote Originally Posted by ajf87 View Post
    As far as I know, we've only once attempted landing on an asteroid (the Hayabusa mission); our total number of successful landings is zero.
    A US probe landed on Eros successfully.

    BTW, welcome to the forum, and I agree with you about the benefits of landing there promptly. Part of the point is to measure the orbit as accurately as possible.
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  6. #6
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    Two ideas: 1. Use a powerful laser to create a flat region that would reflect a beam whenever it rotated into correct orientation. 2. Place a beacon device in position before the meteor arrives, with power and logic control to accelerate to a soft landing.

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    The Planetary Society might just want to stipulate that the $50,000 prize will only be given provided that tagging the asteroid (as such) can not push the asteroid into an even nearer collision course. Just imagine the problem with a successful tag that also just happens to tweak the astroid into a colllision!

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    Quote Originally Posted by patmayeux View Post
    Just imagine the problem with a successful tag that also just happens to tweak the astroid into a colllision!
    Do you think this is a real issue? How can we know which way to nudge the asteroid without tagging it?
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    Brain Storm?

    Quote Originally Posted by antoniseb View Post
    I've got a good idea, but I can't post it since I could really use the $50,000.

    OK, I don't actually have an idea yet, but when I do have an idea I really shouldn't share it here. This could be a short discussion thread.
    Is there an opportunity here for a brainstorming thread? You probably all know how brainstorming works, you just put up the ideas and nobody is allowed to criticize until the brainstorming session is ended, by time limit, or mutual agreement, or whatever. That way the ideas flow freely, no matter how outrageous. For UT's purposes, a word limit (100? 200? 300?) might be in order, to keep it short at the first stage. And since it generates a dated publication, the ideas belong to the originators.

    Hmm, all they need is a source or a reflector on the asteroid. But that's only to determine the asteroid's position. If you could do that accurately enough without the source or the reflector, then you avoid the problems with a rush mission. OK, first idea: How about a really big radar?

  10. #10
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    Wink Tag An Asteroid

    Easy! Embed device in a very large blob of prestick & give the astronauts on the space station a large catapult with which to shoot it at the asteroid.

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    Hola, Senior antoniseb! I just posted something and it's gone...hhhmm It's good to be back though after more than a year! here's the gist of what I just posted and disappeared :-) : I don't really understand the problem. Is there a real problem putting a device on the asteroid? Assuming we could put a device, would it still be functional years after? Could it withstand the conditions in the asteroid's path? Assuming there's no problem in that area, could we put tracking stations on mars and jupiter? Never put all the eggs in one basket! There might be something here on earth that could disable us to track this thing when the time comes and it might be too late... Avoiding collision requires real-time data. We are concerned with the perturbation we might cause but how about perturbation from other sources?

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    Quote Originally Posted by alfchemist View Post
    Is there a real problem putting a device on the asteroid?
    Since we have previously put things on two asteroids and a comet, I'd say no, there is no problem per se. I imagine that the competition will have a few things it will want to optimize.
    - cost of the mission
    - reliabilty of the device
    - likelihood of successfully deployment
    - life expectancy of the device
    - usefulness of data possible by using the device
    - cost or difficulty of using the device after deployment

    Thus a Deep Impact like probe might be fairly cheap for a NASA mission and likely to get to the destination, but would suffer in that it wouldn't survive the landing, doesn't provide the data we're seeking, and has a lot of launch mass.

    If you could design something that could be launched from a Pegasus Rocket, or an old Soviet ICBM, you'll get that price-point down a lot.
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    Sounds so detailed and technical

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    Net Gain

    Quote Originally Posted by antoniseb View Post
    Thus a Deep Impact like probe might be fairly cheap for a NASA mission and likely to get to the destination, but would suffer in that it wouldn't survive the landing, doesn't provide the data we're seeking, and has a lot of launch mass.
    The asteroid is only 400 meters across. How about catching it in net of, say, 1500 meters diameter, with transponder and thrusters attached to the net. Then if you don't like where it's heading, you just tug on the net. The tracking device and the moving system are all in one package.

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Mendenhall View Post
    How about catching it in net of, say, 1500 meters diameter
    For the mentioned prize, that is a bit more than they are asking for, but I agree that if the object is made of rubble, that a net or other wrapping might be an important technique, though you'd have to somehow stop the rotation too.
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    Rot

    Quote Originally Posted by antoniseb View Post
    For the mentioned prize, that is a bit more than they are asking for, but I agree that if the object is made of rubble, that a net or other wrapping might be an important technique, though you'd have to somehow stop the rotation too.
    Ahhgh, I forgot the rotation.

    How about a large circular net, spin it like a Frisbee (as a side benefit the rotation will keep the net extended), and then approach from one of the poles, matching the rotation rates. That way you don't have to stop the rotation before you net the bird. Of course, if the instrument package is located at the net gathering mechanism, whatever that might be, it's going for quite a ride.

    This is more than they are looking for, but it's a pretty good bet that we're going to want to move this thing eventually.

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