Chinese space rockets could be launched to test saving Earth from ‘killer rock’

Researchers from China want to send more than 20 of the country's largest rockets to practise a deflecting a huge asteroid.

The technique may eventually become crucial in defending Earth from a killer rock, Reuters reports.

In sometime between late 2021 and early 2022, the United States are due to launch a robotic spacecraft t deter two asteroids that are flying fairly close to Earth.

The robotic NASA spacecraft will crash-land on the smaller of the two rocks to see how much its trajectory changes.

It will be human's first attempt at trying to change the course of a astronomical object.

Researchers ran simulations of 23 Long March 5 rockets hitting a large asteroid simultaneously – which showed it could deflect its original path by a distance 1.4 times the Earth's radius.

These calculations have been based on an asteroid orbiting the sun, known as Bennu, which is said to be as wide as the Empire State Building is tall.

Bennu is part of a class of rocks which reportedly have the potential to cause regional or continental damage. Any asteroid spanning more than 1km is said to have have global consequences.

Modern estimates show there is around a 1% chance of a 100-metre-wide asteroid striking Earth in the next 100 years, said Professor Gareth Collins at Imperial College London.

"Something the size of Bennu colliding is about 10 times less likely," Collins said.

China's National Space Science Centre recently published a study in a journal on planetary science.

The Long March 5 rockets are at the epicentre of China's space ambitions in the near future. They will be delivering space station modules and launching probes to Mars and the Moon.

Since 2016, China have successfully launched six Long March 5 rockets – with the last one causing some safety concerns after its remnants re-entered the atmosphere in May.

Talking to Reuters, Professor Alan Fitzsimmons from the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen's University Belfast said: "The proposal of keeping the upper stage of the launch rocket to a guiding spacecraft, making one large 'kinetic impactor' to deflect an asteroid, is a rather nice concept.

"By increasing the mass hitting the asteroid, simple physics should ensure a much greater effect."

Although Fitzsimmons added that he felt the actual operation of the mission needed to be studied in greater detail.

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