NASA has simulated an asteroid colliding with Earth. For six months, American and European experts tried to avoid the impact … without success. Currently, no technology on Earth is powerful enough to stop an asteroid.
The experts were immersed in a totally credible situation. An asteroid 35 million kilometers from us, heading straight for Earth, has been discovered. There are still 6 months to go before the impact. This was the first information provided to the experts to start that simulation. Every day, the experts learned a little bit more about the asteroid. For example, its size was estimated at 34 to 800 meters.
During those six months, the experts were unable to find a solution that could be implemented in such a short time. The main idea, often used in American apocalyptic movies, was to send a missile or other spacecraft to destroy or divert the asteroid. But in less than a year, it is impossible to build such a device. Their second idea was to send a nuclear missile, but because the size of the object was too uncertain, it was too difficult to know if the rock would be destroyed. The asteroid eventually crashed in Eastern Europe. And all that was possible was to evacuate the affected areas.
A plausible scenario
This catastrophic scenario is very likely. Space agencies monitor many Earth-shearers, asteroids orbiting the sun within 125 million kilometers of our star.
However, according to Lindley Johnson, NASA’s chief of planetary defense, the US agency has spotted only “one-third of the population of asteroids that could pose a risk of impact on Earth.” For example, it has happened several times that experts have only spotted dangerous objects when they were already close to Earth. In 2019, a 130-meter asteroid was spotted just 45,000 miles from Earth, NewsABC.net explains.
So it is quite possible that an asteroid will be spotted less than six months before impact. In that case, we wouldn’t know what to do. This exercise shows that the space agencies have yet to make efforts to prevent a disaster such as the one that killed the dinosaurs.
Programs under construction
NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are aware of the shortcomings of their observations and have therefore announced the construction of several space telescopes. Their sole purpose will be to observe and monitor the galaxy for nearby Earth objects to send an alert as soon as possible if the Earth is in danger.
The US space agency is also working on a project to divert space rocks. NASA is expected to send a missile to the Dimorphos asteroid in the fall of 2022 to see if it is possible to change its orbit. Other options are heated lasers that can destroy these objects or nuclear missiles. But these technologies are far from ready to protect the Earth.