“Star Trek tractor beam to save Earth from asteroid Armageddon”

No, there’s no real Star Trek-style tractor beam (yet, anyway). What they’re discussing is parking a large spacecraft near such an asteroid and using its gravity to drag the asteroid onto a course that would miss the Earth. That assumes that we detect the threat early enough to launch such a craft, get it into position, and give it enough time to make sufficient difference to the course. Also, of course, that we have such a spacecraft ready when the threat appears, which so far as I know we don’t at present.

They’re also exploring other possibilities, including other ideas from science-fiction movies. 🙂

In any case, I’m happy to see that we’re taking steps to ensure that what happened to the dinosaurs won’t also happen to us. It’s a remote possibility, but even remote possibilities can happen regularly over a long enough period of time.


  1. The Space Shuttle, launched in the early 80s, was in the planning stages since the late 60s, and was being first built and tested in the mid-70s. Getting a new, large, space-worthy spaceship ready in a matter of months or even weeks would be a very difficult engineering task – but at least people are thinking about it now when there’s (hopefully) still time to do so.

    • Ah, but how fast could we design, build, and launch a spacecraft, if we had a really strong reason to do so? I’ll bet it’s a lot faster than twenty years. In fact, with computers and our current knowledge, I’d bet we could do it in five years even without the impetus of impending annihilation. With it, we could probably halve that, though the safety factors would be a bit chancy.

      But it probably won’t come to that. Private companies are now designing and building their own spacecraft, so the chances are good that we’ll have working craft when it turns out to be necessary.

      • Five years is way too long, the amount of warning we have as of now for earthbound and undiscovered Asteroids (which is a lot of them) is less than a month. We need to have that big spaceship designed and ready to go.

        • It’s highly unlikely that the first time we notice an asteroid that’s going to pulverize the Earth is when it’s a month away from doing so. Much more likely is that it’s already in solar orbit, and we’re already tracking most of the larger asteroids in this solar system so we’ll likely get a warning of at least one or two of its orbits, which (since it would have to be in an elliptic orbit) would almost certainly give us several years to prepare for it.

          In any case, I’m betting both the asteroid detection time and the spacecraft design-and-build time will improve in the future.

          • Not so hardly unlikely, it depends of course if it was known beforehand. Some near-earth astroids were discovered merely weeks from their crossing earth’s orbit. 🙁 Hey, I have to be worried, you know me, stop keeping me from being neurotic! 😉

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