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Earth 'unprepared' for killer asteroid strike

Posted on Wednesday, 14 December, 2016 | Comment icon 13 comments

Could we defend ourselves ? Image Credit: NASA Goddard Conceptual Image Lab
A prominent NASA scientist has outlined just how vulnerable our planet is to threats from outer space.
It's a doomsday scenario that has played out time and again on the silver screen, but if mankind really was facing the prospect of being wiped out by an incoming space rock, would we genuinely stand a chance of launching a deflection mission in time ?

Dr Joseph Nuth, a researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, certainly doesn't think so.

During a recent meeting of the American Geophysical Union, Nuth emphasized that while extinction level impacts are extremely rare, our ability to react to such a threat remains woefully inadequate.

In 2014 for instance, a large comet that had been discovered only 22 months beforehand just narrowly missed hitting Mars. If this had been the Earth and the comet's trajectory had been different, there's no way we could have ever reacted quickly enough to stop it.

"The biggest problem, basically, is there's not a hell of a lot we can do about it at the moment," said Nuth. "If you look at the schedule for high-reliability spacecraft and launching them, it takes five years to launch a spacecraft. [In this example scenario] we had 22 months of total warning."

One possible solution, he suggested, would be to have a special interceptor rocket permanently on standby that could be deployed much quicker in the event of such an emergency.

"[It] could mitigate the possibility of a sneaky asteroid coming in from a place that's hard to observe, like from the Sun," he said.

It would take the approval of Congress and a rather substantial amount of additional NASA funding however for such an endeavour to ever get off the ground.

Source: The Guardian | Comments (13)

Tags: Asteroid, Earth

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #4 Posted by Four Winds on 15 December, 2016, 1:19
They example they give of having 22 months warning and not being able to react to that is scary.  The safest bet for humanity is probably not putting all our eggs in one basket, namely Earth.  It is time for us to spread out to other planets and hopefully other solar systems.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Thorvir Hrothgaard on 15 December, 2016, 2:24
Easier said than done. For myself, I'm loyal to this planet and will stay, and hope that someone can come up with a defense against this "killer asteroid".
Comment icon #6 Posted by freetoroam on 15 December, 2016, 13:16
We need to find one just like Earth so we can breath and survive and one which is not under threat from killer asteroids.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Grandpa Greenman on 15 December, 2016, 13:27
I agree with the idea of putting a rocket on standby to change the course of comet or meteor to keep it from hitting us.  BUT there is going to have to be some testing to see what method would work best.  That is going to take time and money. I doubt you are going to get the current US congress to do that.  They would rather spend half the US budget on the military looking for ways to kill more people, than to save them.  We are the first beings on the planet to actually have a chance of stopping an extinction event from space.  Yet we sit on our hands in denial like a dinosaur in the head lig... [More]
Comment icon #8 Posted by third_eye on 15 December, 2016, 13:50
I don't think these rockets and missiles things will be effective due to one little problem ... conjecture ... what if its heading for San Francisco and its deflected and end up pulverizing Dallas ? Yaaaay SF boo hoo Texas ? ~
Comment icon #9 Posted by jpjoe on 15 December, 2016, 14:34
They did mean china isnt ready, right?
Comment icon #10 Posted by Parsec on 16 December, 2016, 0:45
Agreed, but I can't see why it should only be a US problem (and budget).  If we are talking about "killer asteroids", then we are all on the same boat (or planet), so this should be an internationally coordinated effort and expenses should be shared.  Theoretically that's one of the reasons why we have the UN with all its offices, more specifically in this case the UNOOSA. 
Comment icon #11 Posted by Four Winds on 16 December, 2016, 22:59
That goes without saying. Really though, the proposal of having one special rocket on standby falls pretty darn short when you consider that all humanity is at stake.  At the very least have several ready that are all developed independent of each other.  One mistake like not converting from English to Metric as has happened in the past with a Mars probe would literally be catastrophic.
Comment icon #12 Posted by Thorvir Hrothgaard on 17 December, 2016, 2:27
BTW...if the Earth were prepared for this asteroid, it wouldn't be a "killer" one, would it?  That's the nature of being a "killer" asteroid, it will kill us, because we can't stop it.
Comment icon #13 Posted by Thanato on 25 December, 2016, 14:08
We are also unprepared for a Massive CME. I don't think most governments take the threats from space seriously.  We live in a shooting gallery of space rock. And our star likes to burp and fart enough gas that it would electrify and destroy the earths power grid and most electronics. But meh.

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