The researchers simulated the effects of the system’s work in the laboratory-albeit on a smaller scale. They used basalt (a known asteroid with similar composition) as the target of laser pointer bombardment, heating it to incandescent heat. This process changes the mass of the object and produces an effect similar to a “rocket thruster”, using the asteroid itself as a propulsion force. In space, the energy generated by this process is enough to change the path of the asteroid.
“The process that takes place here is called sublimation or gasification, which converts solids or liquids into gases,” the researcher explained. “These gases form a cloud of mist, that is, mass ejection, which creates a reverse driving force. And this is what we want to measure.” They used a magnetic field to rotate the basalt, and then fixed the laser in the opposite direction of the rotation to slow down the rate of rotation.
The video result showed that the rotation of the basalt sample slowed down, changed its direction after stopping, and then re-rotated. The researchers said that this process shows that it is possible to slow down the asteroid’s rotation and change its direction in space.
In this regard, Philip Rubin said that the manipulation of the rotation speed of asteroids provides another important possibility: we may be able to explore, capture and mine asteroids. These are exactly the goals set by NASA’s “Asteroid Redirection Mission”.
This mission is still in the theoretical research stage, and its goal is to visit a larger near-Earth asteroid, green laser pointer collect rock samples on its surface and send it back to Earth. If possible, the asteroid can be redirected to a stable orbit around the moon.