Incoming asteroid! Set lasers on “vaporize”
As this issue went to press, an asteroid roughly half as large as a football field – and with energy equal to that of a large hydrogen bomb – readied for a flyby of Earth. A proposed system could eliminate a threat of this size in the span of an hour, according to researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and California Polytechnic State University. The DE-STAR (Directed Energy Solar Targeting of Asteroids and exploRation) system would harness the sun’s power and convert it into a massive phased array of laser beams to destroy (evaporate) asteroids that pose a potential threat to Earth. DE-STAR also could alter an asteroid’s orbit – deflecting it away from Earth or into the sun – and even be a valuable tool for assessing an asteroid’s composition, enabling lucrative rare-element mining. Scaled-up versions of the system could have a number of other uses, too, possibly including aiding in planetary exploration by powering advanced ion drive systems for deep space travel.
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