How Paintballs Could Save Earth From Giant Asteroid Impact
An epic battle between paintballs and a giant asteroid could one day save the Earth from an apocalyptic space rock impact. The novel asteroid-deflecting scheme proposes that a cloud of paintballs shot into space could knock a dangerous asteroid off a collision course with Earth. Sung Wook Paek, an MIT graduate student, says a spacecraft could fire two rounds of pellets full of white paint powder at an asteroid to cover as much of the rock’s surface as possible. The strategy won the 2012 Move an Asteroid Technical Paper Competition, sponsored by the United Nations’ Space Generation Advisory Council.
The initial force from the paintballs would nudge the asteroid slightly off course, Paek says. And the pale paint job resulting from the splattered pellets would more than double the space rock’s sunlight reflectivity. More photons bouncing off the asteroid’s surface would enhance solar radiation pressure and bump it further off course.