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At last month's American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' Space 2013 conference, University of Tokyo doctoral student Huai-Chien Chang presented an interesting suggestion for providing quick disaster relief to people in isolated areas: Take an existing intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), outfit it with thousands of pounds of supplies, convert it so that it lands softly upon arrival, and send it their way. Chang estimates that such a missile could deliver its contents in about an hour, saving time, equipment, and manpower.

What's the Big Idea?

It's not the first time someone has suggested repurposing ICBMs for peacetime use; parts of the new Minotaur V satellite-launching rocket come from decommissioned American missiles. There are still plenty of others in both the US and Russia that could suffice, especially since, as Chang notes, "[their] engines are still functioning." However, he also cautions that the option would necessarily be reserved for those living in areas that aren't easily reachable by other types of transportation. Of his idea, he says, "I'd like to see something like this happen before the next big disaster hits."

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