Securing Earth from space: China makes race out of developing planetary defense tech

FPI / November 7, 2021


By Richard Fisher

Early on this coming Nov. 24, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is scheduled to launch the initial American attempt to test technologies that could be used to defend Planet Earth.

Title slide from China’s Planetary Defense Conference from Oct. 23 to 27 in Guilin, Guanxi Province. / Chinese Internet

With its space partners the United States may have started to prepare for planetary defense against rogue asteroids.

In contrast, China by its potential investments with security implications and unwillingness to cooperate with others, risks turning an otherwise noble pursuit into an arms race.

The Double Asteroid Redirect Test (DART) mission will test a new solar electric propulsion drive to see if an estimated Oct. 2, 2022 collision can alter the orbit of the small 140 meter diameter asteroid Dimorphos, to be closely observed from the Earth.

Most recently, from Oct. 23 to 27, “The 1st China Planetary Defense Conference” was held in Guilin, in Guanxi Province. A list of the papers presented at the Guilin conference appeared on a number of Chinese websites.

Papers included: “‘Discussion on the Mechanism and Effect Evaluation of Nuclear Explosive Defense Against Asteroids,” by Shen Yi, Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics, Institute of Systems Engineering; and “Research on Laser-driven Deflection Defense Technology for Near-Earth Asteroids,” by Zhang Pinliang, Beijing Satellite Environmental Engineering Research Institute.

While it is not yet possible to determine if these papers advocated the basing asteroid defense nuclear or laser weapons on the Moon, one paper indicated the Moon could be part of a defense system.

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