Fearsome killer asteroids threaten Earth; NASA can do THIS to save humanity

NASA has been developing. capabilities to protect the Earth from giant killer asteroids that can destroy our home planet. How secure are we?

| Updated on: Aug 22 2022, 11:26 IST
Asteroid and Earth
The threat of killer asteroids hitting Earth has always been feared. However, NASA has developed capabilities to do something about it. Is it good enough? (Pixabay)
Asteroid and Earth
The threat of killer asteroids hitting Earth has always been feared. However, NASA has developed capabilities to do something about it. Is it good enough? (Pixabay)

The term near-Earth object or NEO refers to any celestial body of a significant size. The starting point is to find out those objects whose orbit brings them close to Earth. These include asteroids, meteorites and comets. According to NASA, there are more than 27,000 such NEOs floating around our planet and hundreds fly by our planet every year. And they don't just fly past us. Just a month ago, we witnessed asteroid EB5 getting pulled by the Earth's gravitational force and hitting Earth in the western coast of Greenland. With the threat of asteroids looming over our head, humanity is not waiting for the eventuality to happen. NASA has been working on an interplanetary defense system for a while now and with every passing year, it is getting better at this job. But, if an asteroid were to strike the Earth tomorrow, could we defend ourselves? Read on to find out.

High asteroid strike probability for Earth

Scientists have revealed that the Earth did not always have so many space neighbors. In fact, a long time ago, there were barely any asteroids near our planet. However, around 290 million years ago, the probability of an asteroid striking the Earth increased dramatically, according to an article by National Geographic. And ever since, we have been in this high probability zone. The last large asteroid impact was in 2013 in Chelyabinsk, Russia when a 20-meter wide asteroid exploded and injured more than 1,500 people. We have had asteroid impacts even after that incident, but none so devastating.

Similarly, the last large-scale asteroid destruction on Earth can be traced to 66 million years ago, when a 10 kilometers wide asteroid wiped out dinosaurs from our planet and caused an ice age. So, if another planet-killer asteroid like that was headed towards Earth, would it mean certain extinction for all life on Earth or could we protect ourselves from it somehow?

NASA believes that it can protect us.

NASA vs planet-killer asteroids

NASA has been developing its capabilities to obliterate these projectiles before they hit Earth. We received the biggest evidence of it with 2022 EB5. NASA was accurately able to predict its impact location and time even though it discovered it just two hours before impact on Earth! Why it is important is that these are complex analysis and NASA earlier used to take days to give an accurate model of prediction. However, this incident has confirmed that NASA will never be blindsided by an asteroid again.

Further, NASA is constantly watching all the 27,000 NEOs. The American space agency does not claim that it has discovered all the asteroids around Earth, but it remains confident that around 90% have been discovered. And this is possible due to NASA Planetary Defense programme called Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).

But observation and prediction is not everything. Even if we were able to successfully observe and predict the impact of an asteroid, we cannot protect ourselves from an extinction level activity. NASA disagrees. The Planetary Defense Coordination Office or PDCO was established in 2016 by NASA for this exact purpose. The department is tasked with observing and predicting any asteroid that can be potentially hazardous to the Earth, then flag it to NASA. NASA would then call an emergency meeting with not only the US government but all the major governments of the world to plan countermeasures. While the best course of action at the moment remains to shoot nuclear powered rockets into space and blast the space rocks into smithereens. However, NASA is working to develop more efficient ways of fighting off asteroids as blasting an asteroid may break it into many pieces and these may well crash into Earth in many places, possibly making things worse. Another method at its disposal is to nudge the asteroid away from Earth through a spacecraft!.

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First Published Date: 05 Apr, 18:07 IST