There is currently only a 1% chance that a 100-meter-wide celestial body will collide with the Earth in the next 100 years.

Chinese researchers propose deflecting asteroids with rockets to save the planet from 'Armageddon'

Researchers from the National Center for Space Sciences of China intend to send more than 20 of the largest rockets in the Asian giant to practice the rejection of a sizable asteroid. In case a rock could pose a risk of collision with our planet, this technique could stop it. 

Although it may seem like a science fiction idea as simulated in the movie Armageddon, reality says otherwise. Thus, the United States plans to launch a spacecraft to intercept two near-Earth asteroids sometime between late 2021 and early 2022. This will be humanity’s first attempt to try to change the course of an element of these characteristics.

1.4 times the radius of the Earth

And now, Chinese specialists have discovered in various simulations that 23 Long March 5 rockets hitting these celestial bodies at the same time could deviate it from its original trajectory by a distance of 1.4 times the radius of our planet. 

To do these tests, they relied on the asteroid Bennu, which orbits the Sun and is potentially dangerous to cause continental damage. Although the probability of it colliding with Earth is 1 in 2,700, its impact would be catastrophic if it did.

That’s where Long March rockets come in: “The proposal to keep the upper stage of the launch rocket to a guide spacecraft, making a big ‘kinetic impactor’ to deflect an asteroid, is a pretty good concept. By increasing the mass hitting the asteroid, simple physics should guarantee a much greater effect said Professor Alan Fitzsimmons, Queen’s University Belfast Astrophysics Research Center.

Low odds

Experts estimate that there is currently only a 1% chance that a 100-meter-wide asteroid will collide with our planet in the next 100 years. In the case of Bennu, the percentage drops even further, as detailed by Professor Gareth Collins, from Imperial College London: “Something the size of Bennu colliding is about 10 times less likely.”

Therefore, the option that experts handle is to divert the trajectory of the asteroids. This procedure represents a lower risk than exploding it with nuclear explosives since in that case smaller fragments could be created whose course would be unknown: “It is possible to defend against large asteroids with a nuclear-weapon-free technique within 10 years”, researcher Li Mingtao pointed out to the South China Morning Post