The University of Strathclyde’s Stardust project aims to explore solutions for detecting, tracking and deflecting potentially destructive asteroids and space debris. Although an Earth impact from a large (~10 km) to medium (~300 m) diameter asteroid of destructive capacity is unlikely, still researchers agree it is not negligible.
The Stardust Network pulls together expertise from 14 different organisations, encompassing academia, industry, research think tanks and the European Space Agency through a £4m project grant from the European Commission. The project won the 2015 Sir Arthur Clarke Award for ‘Space Achievement - Academic Study/Research’.
The project recently featured on the BBC Two television show Stargazing Live, showcasing the cutting-edge work of researchers in the Stardust team. Professor Massimilano Vasile, Stardust Network Co-ordinator, appeared on the programme and explained: “Earth will be hit by more asteroids in the future. The question is not if, but when”.
Innovative ideas to deflect asteroids from Earth include carriage and detonation of nuclear bombs close-by to break them up, or landing technology on the asteroid; to excavate and eject mass, thereby altering the asteroid’s orbital trajectory, or simply to act as a thruster, driving the asteroid away from Earth.
“A smaller asteroid would not cause the devastation of the one which struck at the time of the dinosaurs, but even a small asteroid could have a profound effect on a city or town. This is why it is vital that we continue to identify and track near-Earth objects, and also that we create viable options to deflect an object which might threaten lives …We use multiple disciplines, from robotics, to applied mathematics, and from computational intelligence to astrodynamics, to find practical and effective solutions to the asteroid threat.”
Strathclyde University continues to boast stellar work in space technology and policy advancement, including work carried out at the prestigious Strathclyde Space Institute.
Image credit: Robert Davies on Flickr