- Conference date: 5-7 November 2002
- Location: Huntsville, Alabama (USA)
Impacting at hypervelocity, an asteroid struck the Earth approximately 65 million years ago in the Yucatan Peninsula area. This triggered the extinction of almost 70% of the species of life on Earth including the dinosaurs. Other impacts prior to this one have caused even greater extinctions. Preventing collisions with the Earth by hypervelocity asteroids, meteoroids, and comets is the most important immediate space challenge facing human civilization. This is the Impact Imperative. We now believe that while there are about 2000 earth orbit crossing rocks greater than 1 kilometer in diameter, there may be as many as 200,000 or more objects in the 100 m size range. Can anything be done about this fundamental existence question facing our civilization? The answer is a resounding yes! By using an intelligent combination of Earth and space based sensors coupled with an infra‐structure of high‐energy laser stations and other secondary mitigation options, we can deflect inbound asteroids, meteoroids, and comets and prevent them from striking the Earth. This can be accomplished by irradiating the surface of an inbound rock with sufficiently intense pulses so that ablation occurs. This ablation acts as a small rocket incrementally changing the shape of the rock’s orbit around the Sun. One‐kilometer size rocks can be moved sufficiently in about a month while smaller rocks may be moved in a shorter time span.
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