Is it possible to move the Earth to a new location - and how to do it

Since the release of the Chinese blockbuster The Wandering Earth, the bold idea of ​​relocating our home planet has attracted the interest of scientists and the general public. Moreover, unlike the film, the need for something like this may arise much earlier than the Sun begins to expand in 4-5 billion years. For example, with a further increase in global warming, it will make some sense to move the planet away from the star in order to prevent it from overheating. What solutions to this problem can modern science offer?

Ion engines instead of jet engines

In theory, each rocket launch generates an impulse that pushes the Earth slightly away, but the planet is so large that it goes unnoticed. So, if we just scale the phenomenon, install trillions of "pushers", then we can solve the problem. The problem is that they need so much fuel to work that in order to move the Earth even to Mars, 85% of its matter will have to be burned. But if we replace jet engines with ionic ones, which eject charged particles at a speed of 40 km / s, then only 13% of the Earth's mass will be enough for such a journey - there are already prospects.

Stills from the movie "Wandering Earth"


The concept of a solar sail has long been worked out, the question is only in time and labor costs - humanity does not have a suitable source of energy to move the whole planet. The most powerful of the lasers under design, the 100 gigawatt Breakthrough Starshot unit, will have to operate for 3 quintillion years (10 to 18 degrees) to generate the necessary thrust. But you can use the light of the Sun itself - calculations show that for this you will have to build a sail 19 times the diameter of the Earth. Even so, it will take millions of years of leisurely movement to noticeably change the planet's orbit.

Gravity Maneuver

We also mastered this technology well, for example, the Rosetta probe twice, in 2005 and 2007, passed near the Earth so that its gravity would give it the necessary impulse. The asteroid belt, which is very close, between Mars and Jupiter, is full of massive objects that are not too difficult to disperse and direct towards Earth. Each of them, when flying past the planet, will create a small impulse, and if we repeat this maneuver several million times, then we will get the desired effect. The benefit here is that such an impulse is orders of magnitude more powerful than any engine that humanity can mount on the planet itself - there is a tremendous cost savings.

Stills from the movie "Wandering Earth"

What is the reality?

If there is a problem of the continued existence of people on Earth, then the first question will not be how we "move", but where? There are no suitable places yet, the most optimistic option is a colony on nearby Mars. But in this case, too, it is much easier to build a flotilla of spaceships and transport the people themselves, without trying to move the whole planet.