The Unexpected Way We Might Prevent An Asteroid From Hitting Earth

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According to planetary scientist Detlef Koschny, we have mapped 90% of asteroids that are 1 kilometer in size or larger, with scientists confident that none of these poses a threat to Earth anytime in the next 100 years (via Earthsky.org). However, should an asteroid smaller than 1 kilometer threaten Earth over this time, scientists have been hard at work developing strategies to counter any such threat. NASA is partnering with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) on a mission called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which will attempt to redirect an asteroid this September. The spacecraft will smash into an asteroid 530 feet in diameter. The force of the impact will be the equivalent of three tons of TNT, deflecting the asteroid out of its current trajectory.

In the case of a genuine threat, the plan would be to detect the danger early enough to put together a deflection mission such as the NASA DART project. However, should such a mission fail, or should an impending collision with an asteroid only be detected within one year from a potential impact, more drastic measures will need to be taken. This would involve the launch of a targeted nuclear strike on the asteroid, which a study published in 2021 shows could indeed be successful in obliterating it. The scientists developed a simulation revealing a 1-megaton nuclear warhead would stop at least 99% of the impacting mass of an asteroid up to 330 feet wide. Asteroid: 0 – Humanity: 1.

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