Throwing Pebbles to Divert Asteroid?

A swarm of pebble-sized spacecraft could deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth, if launched early enough, British researchers say.

Aerospace engineers Alison Gibbings and Massimiliano Vasile at the University of Strathclyde say they’ve calculated a 1,000-pound swarm of pebble-sized spacecraft would deflect a fast-moving, 800-foot asteroid by nearly 22,000 miles, enough to avoid a collision, reported.

However, the swarm would have to be launched in time to meet the asteroid eight years, or about three orbits, before the predicted Earth impact, the researchers said.

Such a swarm could be launched from Earth in a single rocket and then released as a tight cloud directed at the asteroid, they said.

One advantage is that the pebbles would be too small to crack the asteroid into possible dangerous pieces, they said.

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