The one thing standing between human annihilation and just another day at the office might very well be…paintball.
The winner of a United Nations’ Space Generation Advisory Council competition to find the best ideas to detect or deflect asteroids hurtling towards Earth has captured the top prize by suggesting we might be able to fight back with paintball, Space.com reported.
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In the strategy proposed by MIT graduate student Sung Wook Paek, a spacecraft would splatter the incoming asteroid with two rounds of white paint powder, according to Space.com. The force of the paintball hit would push the space rock slightly off course, and the extra sunlight reflecting off the whitewashed space rock would increase solar radiation pressure and inch it over a little more.
It’s not a quick fix, however. In his proposal, Paek noted that if this technique was used to deflect Apophis, a 900-foot-wide asteroid due to get scarily close to on Earth in 2029 and again in 2036, panicky humans would have to wait 20 years for the solar radiation pressure to build up enough to push the asteroid off its collision course with the planet, Space.com reported.
Lindley Johnson, program manager for NASA’s Near Earth Objects Observation Program, said he welcomed Paek's proposal, according to Space.com. "It is very important that we develop and test a few deflection techniques sufficiently so that we know we have a viable 'toolbox' of deflection capabilities to implement when we inevitably discover an asteroid on an impact trajectory," Johnson said in a statement.