What Plans Does Humanity Have To Stop An Asteroid?

At this moment there are 2000 asteroids that are potentially dangerous for the earth. What plans does humanity have to stop an asteroid?


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NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies is a branch of NASA that deals with identifying asteroids that are potentially dangerous to Earth. According to this organization, there are currently 27,000 near-Earth asteroids, and more are being discovered all the time. Of these, more than 885 are larger than one kilometer. Considering that an 11-kilometer asteroid was enough to wipe out the dinosaurs, the threat is real./p>

This got us thinking, what strategies exist right now to stop an asteroid? Here we tell you what we know about it.

The gravity tractor

The gravity tractor is a technology that for now is purely theoretical. It is a way of altering the trajectory of an asteroid without coming into contact with it. Basically, it would be a question of bringing a vehicle close to the space rock, enough so that the gravity of the vehicle alters the course of the threat. This ship could even take a piece of the asteroid to increase its gravitational pull.

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The advantage of this method is that it does not require the destruction of the asteroid into smaller fragments, which could pose a threat.

The kinetic impactor

This method, explained in a few words, is like playing billiards in space. It is about launching a spaceship towards the asteroid with enough speed to alter its course. This is perhaps the simplest and most supported method by space agencies at the moment.

Nuclear weapons, the last resort

Unlike the movie “Don’t Look Up” the use of nuclear weapons is plan C when it comes to these asteroids. However, the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (the part of NASA that deals with these problems) describes this method as “the most effective” to stop a cataclysmic event.

According to this organization “A remote detonation is the method with the greatest controllability and predictability to use a nuclear device to deflect an asteroid.” A nuclear device would detonate some distance from the asteroid’s surface. This would irradiate the surface of the object, causing the material to break off of it. The momentum generated by this detachment would send the asteroid on a new trajectory. This means that it is not the nuclear explosion that deflects the asteroid, but the force of the energy that radiates from its surface.

The problem does not only come from space.

Carl Sagan, the American astrophysicist, cosmologist, and astrobiologist, expressed in his book “Pale Blue Dot” a problem with the technology used to stop asteroids. According to him, any technology used to move asteroids away from Earth could also be used to bring them closer. This would give the most technologically advanced nations a weapon of mass destruction almost impossible to stop. This hasn’t happened yet, but it’s a chilling possibility.

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