Use Moon Dust To Fight Climate Change, Or… Keep Our Skies and Oceans Clear, and Slightly Enlarge Earth’s Orbit
Blocking Out Sun Rays With Moon Dust
WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 13, 2023) – MIT scientists have proposed using space bubbles, NASA and the European Union suggest employing space sunshades, the federally funded National Academy of Sciences recommends altering our oceans to absorb more carbon dioxide.
A firm named "Make Sunsets" has launched test balloons dispersing sun-reflecting sulfur dioxide particles into the stratosphere, and now some theoretical physicists at the University of Utah think we should shoot millions of metric tons of moon dust to the L1 Lagrange point in space every year to partially block out the Sun’s rays - all to reduce global warming without drastic changes in our lifestyles.
But there's another alternative - one which doesn't involve polluting our oceans or obscuring our skies - which should at least be considered now that it has been shown to be possible and practical, says professor John Banzhaf of the George Washington University, a theoretical physicist, and even (to some extent) astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.
In light of a very pessimistic report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - that the earth’s surface temperature will increase over the current century even under all assessed emission scenarios - and an announcement by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy of a 5-year research plan to study geoengineering to address it.
All possible solutions to global warming probably should be considered and carefully evaluated before selecting any one approach, or continuing our so-far largely-unsuccessful efforts to slash emissions of greenhouse gases, says Professor Banzhaf, a Fellow of the World Technology Network.
Some - including a Lecturer in Space Systems Engineering, an astrophysicist, an MIT-trained engineer, and even Tyson - are suggesting that another equally controversial way-outside-the-box alternative, sometimes called "cosmic nudging" because it involves changing the orbits of asteroids to increase Earth's orbit by 0.3% - should also be given at least some preliminary study and consideration, particularly in light of three recent developments:
ONE - NASA recently reported that its test to determine whether it could accurately catch up to and then deflect an asteroid greatly surpassed expectations. Originally expected to reduce the asteroid's orbit by only 73 seconds, the deliberate collision increased the orbital period by an astonishing of 32 minutes - giving it a boost more than 25 times as powerful as scientists had hoped for.
TWO - It seems that real progress is being made towards using nuclear fusion as a viable source of energy; the kind of energy which would probably be required for large-scale cosmic nudging. More specifically:
- The Department of Energy is funding a five-year, $15 million, project with Christlieb to develop the computational tools needed to successfully harness energy from fusion reactions.
- Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility generated 10 quadrillion watts of fusion power for a fraction of a second.
- The Joint European Torus project in the United Kingdom, which uses powerful magnets to compress fusion fuel and produces temperatures 10 times hotter than the sun, broke its own world record for energy projection.
- ITER, a $23 billion collaborative effort, predicts that it will achieve "first plasma" before 2026 by using the world’s largest tokamak, a doughnut-shaped magnetic fusion device.
THREE - a new scientific paper by a physicist explains how the orbital change [cosmic nudge] approach, proposed years earlier, could be accomplished.
All this adds plausibility to the suggestion of a space systems engineering expert, and also by an MIT-trained engineer with two U.S. patents, that deflecting asteroids might help to increase Earth's orbit enough - a scant 0.3% - to counteract global warming, especially after recent calculations in a new paper by a physicist showed more precisely how such a plan could operate.
Although the goal of the recent experiment in cosmic nudging was to test one method for dealing with a possible situation in which a close-orbiting asteroid might endanger the Earth, it has helped prove our ability to alter the trajectory of objects in space; something which might even lead to further consideration of a controversial way-outside-the-box tactic for fighting global warming without radical reductions in greenhouse gases, says Banzhaf.
Professor Banzhaf has shown how increasing Earth's orbit by a mere 0.3% might balance the current global warming crisis caused by the release of greenhouse gasses. He also suggested several techniques which might be used.
Especially if controllable energy generation from nuclear fusion proves to be feasible - to achieve this tiny but very significant change in Earth's orbit, including the well-known and previously utilized "slingshot" technique utilizing deflected asteroids.
Noting that conventional plans for combating climate change do not seem to be making sufficient headway as the global warming situation continues to worsen, astrophysicist Tyson said of the general concept that: "It sounds a little crazy but what he's speaking of is what we call geoengineering. . . . So if he wants to think of a geoengineering idea that could help [reduce global warming], I don't have a problem with that, even if it's a little out there."
Now a new scientific paper by a physicist explains how this orbital change could be accomplished. Entitled "Gravity-Assist as a Solution to Save Earth from Global Warming," it says:
"We propose an alternative method of using the gravity-assist by the asteroids to increase the orbital distance of the Earth from the Sun.
We can manipulate the orbit of asteroids in the asteroid belt by solar sailing and propulsion engines to guide them towards the Mars orbit and a gravitational scattering can put asteroids in a favorable direction to provide an energy loss scattering from the Earth. The result would be increasing the orbital distance of the earth and consequently cooling down the Earth’s temperature."
More specifically, the paper shows how this could be accomplished within a reasonable time frame:
"The time scale to lower the orbit is about 70 yrs for a 1010 kg mass asteroid. Using the installed propulsion jet engines on the asteroids will decrease this time scale and enable us to do the asteroid maneuvering for a larger number of asteroids.
This project can enable us to change the earth’s orbit and cool down its temperature by decreasing the energy flux of the sun received by the earth. This project could be feasible for the future technology on earth."
Professor Banzhaf's original proposal to at least consider using astronomical engineering [cosmic nudging] to fight global warming; a concept now being discussed, can be found at: