An Asteroid Could Hit Earth and China Wants to Divert It Using 23 Rockets

There has been extensive research involving asteroid Bennu, an 85.5-million-ton space rock that has slim chances of striking our planet. But “slim” is still not a reassuring enough word, so China is planning on firing 23 Large March 5 rockets into space, to divert it away from Earth.
Asteroid Bennu 6 photos
Chinese Long march 5B RocketOsiris Spacecraft on Asteroid BennuAsteroid BennuAsteroid BennuAsteroid Bennu
It is true that Bennu’s chances of hitting us are 1 in 2,700, and it is something our descendants should worry about sometimes between the years 2175 and 2199, but even so, it’s not a risk anyone wants to take. So the Chinese are working on a solution to further mitigate that risk.

Based on thorough calculations, China’s National Space Science Center concluded that 23 Long March 5 rockets would be enough to divert the asteroid away by approximately 6,000 miles (9,000 km). Each rocket would weigh 992 tons (900 metric tons) and all 23 would have to push against Bennu at the same time to be able to reroute the space rock.

China is not the first one to come up with a solution to the Bennu issue. NASA presented a similar plan, called HAMMER (Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response) only it involves a fleet of 30 ft (9 m) tall spacecraft that should be launched 10 years before Bennu would collide with Earth. These would also divert the asteroid and it would be a more affordable approach to the Chinese one.

The impact that Bennu would have if it hit us would be 80,000 times stronger than the Hiroshima bomb, with an estimated kinetic energy of the asteroid measuring 1,200 megatons.

In 2016, NASA successfully sent a spacecraft called OSIRIS-Rex (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) to take a sample of the asteroid for studies back home. On May this year, the spacecraft began its long journey back to Earth, traveling 1.4 billion miles (2.25 billion km). It is scheduled to reach our planet’s orbit sometime in 2023.


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