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Paint Saves the World

Updated on March 3, 2013


Equals Extinction?
Equals Extinction? | Source


It has been proposed that paint could save the world from Armageddon.

MIT graduate student Sung Wook Paek, on a paper submitted for a competition sponsored by United Nations Space Generation Advisory Council, proposed the use of paint pellets to deflect a potentially devastating asteroid heading for Earth.

Asteroid Apophis was used as a test piece in the paper. Apophis is a 900 ft wide asteroid that is often seen and it has been speculated that could be a potential candidate for colliding with the Earth. It is due to pass by Earth in 2029 and again in 2036.


According to Paek, paint pellets could be fired at the asteroid, covering the whole of one surface with white paint. In the case of Apophis it would take approximately 5 tons of paint to do the job.

The idea is that, at first the pellets striking the asteroid would deflect it, then the paint would double the asteroids reflectivity and this alone would change the course of the rock. The paint would cause more photons to bounce off the surface of the asteroid and it would be this that nudged the asteroid into a different course.

The paper did point out though that, for the rays from the Sun alone, to move Apophis, it would take in the region of 20 years to divert it from a collision.

This idea builds on one that won last years same competition. In that paper it was proposed just hitting the asteroid with pellets, to nudge it off course.


Lindley Johnson of NASA says that the idea is very innovative and that it is perhaps a deviation from the solar sails that are currently used to make use of solar energy in some of their current satellites.

He also said that it was very important to try out some of these ideas that are suggested. Others of which have included the use of lasers or nuclear weapons.

He stated that it was important to have a variety of tried and tested weapons in their asteroid arsenal.

By now I think that all scientists have agreed that it is not a case of if, the Earth will be struck by a space rock big enough to cause world wide devastation but just a question of when. It is therefore imperative that some of these proposed defenses are put to some kind of test.

Although some of these projects may prove expensive, I believe that they are perhaps more important than some of the other space programs are. I believe that it would also be good if we could perfect a method that did not include the use of nuclear weapons.

Just as we are looking at planets for signs of intelligent life, it would only be logical to assume that, if there are other intelligent life forms out there, then they too could be looking at us. If this were the case, I am not so sure that it would be a good thing for us to display the fact that we are capable of using nuclear weapons for any purpose. Also, if nuclear weapons were to be used to deflect asteroids, it could give governments excuses to put them in space, just in case. This could in turn cause others to do the same. In the end we could be faced with a bigger threat to our existence than asteroids.

We must always remember that mankind is probably responsible for nearly as much mass destruction of species, as natural disasters. Let it not be that we are responsible for our own extinction.


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    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      So very interesting !!!!

    • rafken profile image

      rafken 5 years ago from The worlds my oyster

      Larry Fields - First I would like to point out that I am not any kind of scientist, I just like to write, in laymans terms, what is going on in the science world. That is to say: as I understand it.

      All your suggestions seem, to me, valid, but there again I guess that scientists would have got this covered.

      Perhaps, as you said, you wish you had thought of it, as we supposedly know more about our planet, than we do any asteroid, we should paint Earth and play "Dodgems", suggest that.

      As for myself, I think that they should be able to give us enough warming for a direct hit. It is the torsion produced my a "near miss" that we should be concerned about, regardless of the color.

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 5 years ago from Northern California

      Brilliant idea! I wish that I'd thought of it. Now Wet Banket Larry has 3 stooopid questions.

      First, suppose that we can accurately predict when Apophis is going to clobber us, and that it's going to be more than 20 years in the future. We turn the outer space graffiti artists loose, and they paint the whole thing white. During the 20-year wait, would the asteroid's fancy paint job get covered over by dust?

      I'm assuming that the answer to the first question is no. Second, would the paint treatment forestall, rather then prevent a future collision with Apophis? After the first collision is averted, we may need to spray-paint it black, in order to avoid a collision further down the road!

      Third, does the same side of Apophis always face the sun? If so, the proposed project may be a giant boondoggle. The paint would have negligible effect. Why?

      Scenario A. The dark rock that's always facing he sun would absorb most frequencies of light, and then re-radiate in the IR. In terms of photonic momentum transfer, the net effect would be equivalent to diffuse reflection.

      Scenario B. On the other hand, if Apophis is spinning rapidly, the IR re-radiation would be in all directions. And there would be precious little net momentum transfer from the incoming solar radiation. The painting project could make sense in this case.