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Experimental analysis of laser ablation for asteroid deflection and exploitation

Gibbings, Alison (2012) Experimental analysis of laser ablation for asteroid deflection and exploitation. In: SET for Britain 2012, 2012-03-12 - 2012-03-12.

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Abstract

Asteroids, the leftover debris from planetary formation, represent both an opportunity and a risk. Their pristine environment captures the early impact evolution of the solar system, whereas their impact risk could result in the mass extinction of life. This is considered to have happened once before, approximately 65 million years ago, with the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. It will happen again. It is only a matter of time. However, novel techniques are now being developed to mitigate and assess the impending asteroid-to-Earth impact risk. Specifically, asteroid deflection through laser ablation is considered to be a promising mitigation technique. This is achieved by irradiating the surface of an asteroid with a laser light source. The resulting heat enables the surface rock to ablate, transforming the material directly from a solid to a gas. The ablated material then expands to form an ejecta plume. Over an extended period of time, this provides a continuous and controlled force that can be used to actively deviate small to medium size asteroids.