SPACE: Asteroid-Hunting (was Cassini Mission Consequences)

Mark Grant (
Mon, 22 Sep 1997 21:47:51 +0000

On Mon, 22 Sep 1997, Richard Plourde wrote:

> The space shuttle, as currently designed, represents an
> earth-orbit vehicle. According to what I've read, it does not
> have the ability to achieve escape velocity.

The shuttle is a really, really bad vehicle for long-range space travel
(big wings and engines to carry around and limited life-support), and even
a payload bay full of fuel wouldn't be enough to reach escape velocity.

Anyway, the situation is worse than that; you not only have to get to the
incoming asteroid, you have to either hit it when you're closing at tens
of kilometers per second, or use far more fuel to match velocities.
Neither is really feasible at this time unless we have at least a few
months warning; and even then we'd need the 'asteroid-buster' on the
ground ready to launch as soon as a threat was detected.


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