A "gravity tractor" could deflect an Earth-threatening asteroid if it was deployed when the asteroid was more than one orbit away from the potential impact, according to a new study. If the space rock was found heading straight for Earth, a combination of techniques - including a gravity tractor - might save the day.
The study, carried out by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, shows that the weak gravitational pull of a nearby spacecraft could deflect a hypothetical asteroid 140 metres across, big enough to cause regional devastation if it hit Earth.
"Prior to this study, the gravity tractor deflection technique had been proven in only a conceptual way," says Clark Chapman of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, who was not involved in the study.
Keep reading here.
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more