It will take a series of small bumps to change the trajectory of an asteroid like Bennu, which has some chance of colliding with our planet in a century and a half, according to The New York Times.
Scientists have been fighting over how to prevent such collisions since the 1960s. Previously, the most reliable method was considered a powerful blow, which will split the asteroid into thousands of pieces. But there is a serious flaw in this solution: all these fragments can also approach the Earth, threatening to collide. Now scientists are studying another method - kinetic impact mitigation (KID). It involves launching an object into space that gently pulls the asteroid off its original course, moving it away from our planet, but keeping it intact. The goal is to achieve that the asteroid just "missed" the Earth a little, this is quite enough.
Researchers tested the method during experiments conducted at NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. They fired spherical aluminum projectiles at meteorites suspended from a nylon rope. In this case, 32 meteorites were used - fragments of asteroids, purchased mainly from private dealers. Tests have shown that it can take several consecutive bumps to deflect rather than destroy asteroids, especially Class C carbonaceous asteroids, the most common type in space.
A recent NASA study found Bennu's chance of not hitting Earth for the next three centuries is over 99.9%, but it remains one of the two most dangerous known asteroids in the solar system (the other being 1950 DA).