How Reliant Robin could save us from Armageddon

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The Independent Online

Forget the Hollywood muscle men if the Earth has to be saved from an asteroid on a collision course: the sensible solution would be to send up a Reliant Robin to push it out of the way.

Dr Matthew Genge, an earth scientist at Imperial College in London, has calculated that the three-wheeled vehicle running for 75 days could exert enough force to divert the most dangerous asteroid presently known to humanity - a billion-ton rock known as 1950DA, which is on course to hit the Earth in 887 years.

Dr Genge told the British Association that the calculation he has made (based on the Reliant's acceleration capabilities, of 0-60mph in 16 seconds) demonstrate that keeping dangerous asteroids away from Earth takes planning, rather than force.

The scenario used in the film Armageddon, in which Bruce Willis blows up an asteroid just before it hits the Earth, is a bad idea. "That would leave a lot more pieces which could still hit us," he said. Instead, use gentle diversion: given the vast distances involved once a threatening object has been spotted, "you only have to change its speed by one centimetre per second for it to miss us."