Concept drawing of the DE-STAR system engaging both an asteroid for evaporation
or composition analysis, and simultaneously propelling an interplanetary spacecraft.
Credit: Philip M. Lubin

EARTHSKY // SCIENCE WIRE RELEASE DATE: FEB 15, 2013

California scientists propose system to vaporize asteroids that threaten Earth

Two California scientists are unveiling their proposal for a system that could eliminate an asteroid threat.

As an asteroid roughly half as large as a football field — and with energy equal to a large hydrogen bomb — readies for a fly-by of Earth on Friday, two California scientists are unveiling their proposal for a system that could eliminate a threat of this size in an hour. The same system could destroy asteroids 10 times larger than the one known as 2012 DA14 in about a year, with evaporation starting at a distance as far away as the Sun.

UC Santa Barbara physicist and professor Philip M. Lubin, and Gary B. Hughes, a researcher and professor from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, conceived DE-STAR, or Directed Energy Solar Targeting of Asteroids and exploRation, as a realistic means of mitigating potential threats posed to the Earth by asteroids and comets.

“We have to come to grips with discussing these issues in a logical and rational way,” said Lubin, who began work on DE-STAR a year ago. “We need to be proactive rather than reactive in dealing with threats. Duck and cover is not an option. We can actually do something about it and it’s credible to do something. So let’s begin along this path. Let’s start small and work our way up. There is no need to break the bank to start.”

Described as a “directed energy orbital defense system,” DE-STAR is designed to harness some of the power of the Sun and convert it into a massive phased array of laser beams that can destroy, or evaporate, asteroids posing a potential threat to Earth. It is equally capable of changing an asteroid’s orbit — deflecting it away from Earth, or into the Sun — and may also prove to be a valuable tool for assessing an asteroid’s composition, enabling lucrative, rare-element mining. And it’s entirely based on current essential technology.

Read more: California scientists propose system to vaporize asteroids that threaten Earth | Science Wire | EarthSky.

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