Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Small space tug

The smaller they are, the more they lift
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Recently, NASA recommended using a specialized spacecraft to adjust a killer-asteroid's orbit. The idea was to position a massive spacecraft some 50 meters from a small asteroid (200 m daimeter) and use gravity to, over several months, attract the asteroid in the direction of the spacecraft.

Of course, being NASA, they figured, might as well make the craft weigh 20 tonnes, so as to better attract the asteroid. It seems to me, this is a little overkill. Lets say that NASA intends to 'station keep' the spacecraft with one of their new ion engines (firing a beam of Xenon atoms continuously for months). It seems to me, that all they need to do is find a suitably large bolder on (or near) the asteroid and lift that to the 50 meter point.

Perhaps its best to imagine a diminutive spacecraft wedging itself between asteroid and boulder, and then, much like superman, pushing the boulder off the surface. Given the miniscule gravity of the asteroid, such a feat probably doesn't require a chemical rocket (if it does, maybe just use a small thruster).

P.S. The idea above probably doesn't make much sense until you look at NASAs original concept in the links below.

pathetic, Nov 09 2005

Nasa concept http://www.newscien...rticle.ns?id=dn8291
Adjusts the orbit of the killer asteroid. [pathetic, Nov 09 2005]

Picture http://www.newscien...91/dn8291-1_800.jpg
[pathetic, Nov 09 2005]

[link]






       You sure about that? Gravity is a very weak force. Much easier to blast the asteroid killer into the side of the thing, and physically knock it off course.   

       You are sure! Sheesh - what *are* we paying these guys for?
DrCurry, Nov 09 2005
  

       I'm not paying them anything.   

       For me and non-US others, this kind of nuttiness is great value-for-money entertainment.
Texticle, Nov 09 2005
  

       Cables? Gravity? Ever hear of NETS? A large space-net could be released to capture the asteroid, or rubble, then the ship could tug the tihng off course. Hell, use those mylar solar sails! Send up 5 solar sailing probes, release a net in between them, and let nature-er, light, do it's work!
EvilPickels, Nov 10 2005
  

       Nets was my third option, right after hitting the asteroid with a suction-cup-arrow and then dragging it around :).
pathetic, Nov 10 2005
  
      
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