Some weeks ago - I don't even remember how long - I blogged about the latest idea that scientists had come up with for defending Earth from asteroid impacts, with high energy lasers, called the DE-STAR. At the time, of course, this was just an idea.
Well, Mr. B.G. found this article and apparently, it has actually undergone it's first proof of concept experiment:
Now, here's the basic idea of the laser asteroid zapper:
The idea has been around for years but the team at the University of California say laboratory tests show their De-Star - or Directed Energy System for Targeting of Asteroids and exploRation – could actually work.
They envisage putting an unmanned De-Star craft in orbit. At the first sign of a impending disaster it would target the asteroid with a high-energy laser, causing part of the rock to vaporise in a process known as sublimation.
That ejection of gas would then create sufficient force to alter the course of the rock.
So far, so good, But now here's the bad news: the proof of concept experiments actually worked:
Qicheng Zhang of the University of California, Santa Barbara, one of the authors of the project, told Astrowatch.net: “Generally speaking, the technology is available today.
“The main challenge with building a full De-Star is the necessary scale to be effective.”
They have tested the technique on earth, by blasting a piece of basalt – an igneous rock similar in composition to some asteroids.
The technique was tested by directing a laser onto basalt - which has a composition similar to asteroids.
They found that when it glowed white-hot, it began to lose mass.
Travis Brashears, a student who has worked with the group, said last year: “What happens is a process called sublimation or vaporisation, which turns a solid or liquid into a gas.
The basic idea is to vaporize asteroids, or at least a part of them. What intrigues me here, with this story, is not simply the advance on the concept over previous reports about it, but that they have admitted (1) they're testing the basic idea, and (2) admitted that the real problem is not with the concept, but with the scale needed: The sutble hint here is that they would need sufficient size and sufficient energy to be able to pump a weapon of that size.
Yes, you caught it: I said weapon, for if a weapon can be constructed to vaporize asteroids, say, of small or medium size, imagine what such a weapon might do to buildings or targets on earth, with appropriate phase conjugation to minimize atmospheric effects. Imagine the use of masers, or(worse) grazers(gamma ray lasers), used with interferometry and phase conjugation. And if you're keeping score, this is another "hit" for Dr. Carol Rosin, who long ago indicated in her affidavit to Dr. Stephen Greer, that the "plan" she had been told by Dr. von Braun, the plan to weaponize space, would first be communists, then terrorists, then nations of concern, then asteroids, and finally, extraterrestrials. We're in "asteroid phase," and that suggests something else, and something profoundly disturbing:
If we're in "asteroid phase", then it seems likely that the technology might be much farther along than we can possibly imagine. It means that nuclear weapons might be nearing the end of their "shelf life" as strategic weapons, and it means that their might, indeed, be a "potential threat" they've not told us about.
See you on the flip side...