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)