Astronomers believe that the asteroid 99942 Apophis, which has a fair chance of impacting our planet in 2036, could be averted from its dangerous course – if the need arises – by attacking it with lasers fueled by sunlight.
A constellation of spacecraft outfitted with such lasers would be able to redirect space rocks' courses by a sufficient margin to ensure the safety of the planet. Apophis has a 2.7 percent chance of hitting Earth in 2029, or in 2036, 2037. Detailed estimates of its path are still being compiled.
The aptly named Apophis weighs around 46 million tons, so changing its course (when factoring inertia into the calculations) is not an easy task. However, scientists are convinced that using solar-powered lasers to ablate its surface might actually work.
The “paper demonstrates how significant deﬂections can be obtained with relatively small sized, easy-to-control spacecraft,” study authors Massimiliano Vasile and Christie Maddock, from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, explain in the journal arXiv