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02 August 2013

Asteroids go home!

Here’s a way photonics could create a better world: by preventing our earth from being pulverized by an asteroid.

The terrifying arrival of a meteorite in Chelyabinsk, Russia earlier this year raised awareness (again) of the potential for a catastrophic, much bigger object to threaten earth. This one was “only” estimated at 17-20 meters in size, weighing about 10,000 tons. Nearly 1500 people sought medical attention for injuries – flying glass was the main culprit. Also, 7000 buildings were damaged. The entry into the atmosphere created a shock wave that circled the earth twice.

So it’s good news that people are applying their creativity to the problem of even bigger objects that might threaten earth – the ones we can see coming. How to destroy them before they destroy us, or simply redirect them into a new path away from our planet? It seems like a job for lasers, doesn’t it?

A NASA press release described a “mission formulation review” this week to examine concepts for each phase of the asteroid mission. In addition NASA has received more than 400 responses to a request for information in which industry, universities and the public offered ideas for NASA’s asteroid initiative. You can bet there are plenty of lasers involved. Now we can look forward to crossing one natural catastrophe off our threat list, once our photonics-enabled protection system is in place.

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