Brilliant Pebbles was a system of ballistic-missile interceptors proposed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as part of the Strategic Defense Initiative in the 1980’s. Brilliant Pebbles was a kinetic-energy interceptor. The name derives from the descriptive term of “smart rocks,” which was previously used to describe guided kinetic-energy weapons. Brilliant Pebbles took advantage of miniaturized electronics to make the interceptors much smarter, smaller, and cheaper to build – hence  “pebbles” rather than “rocks.”

Now, two researchers from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland have suggested that smart pebbles might find a use against a different target, according to the New Scientist. At the Astrobiology Science Conference, held recently in Atlanta, Dr. Alison Gibbings and Dr. Massimiliano Vasile stated that a swarm of smart pebbles could be used to deflect an Earth-approaching asteroid.

According to Gibbings and Vasile, a 500-kilogram swarm of pebbles, each the size of a fingernail, could deflect the course of a 250-metre asteroid by almost 35,000 kilometers. The calculation assumes some advanced warning. The swarm would to hit the asteroid about eight years before the expected impact.

Dr. Vasile is also investigating the use of brilliant pebbles to remove space debris in Earth orbit.

Written by Astro1 on May 6th, 2012 , Innovation, Planetary Defense

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