Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Taking the Bite Out of an Asteroid

PostedFebruary 28, 2004

Download File (mp3)

On January 13, scientists spotted a large asteroid seemingly on a collision course with Earth.  It was a miscalculation, luckily, because aerospace engineer John Olds says Hollywood's solutions won't work.  For example, even if we could nuke an asteroid, it would simply turn a huge cannon ball into a huge shotgun blast.  Olds' company, SpaceWorks Engineering, is developing a unique plan for the NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts.  Thousands of small spacecraft would orbit near the moon.  If a dangerous asteroid is confirmed, they'd be ordered to swarm onto it, then rapidly dig and chuck golfball-sized pieces of the asteroid into space.  Like throwing rocks from a boat in still water, Olds says—given enough lead time—the effect could nudge an asteroid's path enough to avoid us.  One idea for taking the bite out of dangers from space.  With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP Radio.    




  • The January 13 asteroid scare
  • Asteroid and comet impact hazards (especially see intro and FAQs)
  • NASA's near earth object program details space missions, orbit info, close approaches, and impact risks
  • SpaceWorks Engineering's small spacecraft for defending Earth