NASA unveils 3 ways it will defend Earth from catastrophic asteroids
The chances of an asteroid large enough to be a threat to areas where human beings are concentrated are small. Still, it's what's known as a "high impact" result.
Titled the 'National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan', 18 pages of what it's working on deal with asteroids on course to encounter Earth. There are officially none yet on NASA's radar, but new asteroids are discovered frequently that we didn't know about previously.
The space agency has been working on this for a while, focusing on detection; here's the increase in such objects found since just 1980. NASA also maintains a network of telescopes scanning the skies regularly for threatening NEOs (near-Earth objects).
(Image via NASA/OSTP)
It has listed 5 goals which it plans to implement over the next
Goal 1: Enhance NEO Detection, Tracking, and Characterization Capabilities.
Goal 2: Improve NEO Modeling, Prediction, and Information Integration.
Goal 3: Develop Technologies for NEO Deflection and Disruption Missions.
Goal 4: Increase International Cooperation on NEO Preparation.
Goal 5: Strengthen and Routinely Exercise NEO Impact Emergency Procedures and Action Protocols.
Included in the document is an illustration of what could happen if an asteroid the size of the one that hit Tunguska, Russia in 1911 could potentially do if it hit New York City. It could be devastating.
(Image via NASA/OSTP)
The death toll could reach millions in such a scenario. Indeed, part of the plan includes how to coordinate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other governmental and non-governmental organizations across the world who help manage catastrophes.
The picture of just what that looks like, in the time leading up to the impact and what happens immediately after, is laid out in the document as well.
(Image via NASA/OSTP)
In a teleconference on the 10-year plan, OSTP rep Aaron Miles made it clear that they're not sounding the alarm but rather preparing for the remote chance that this could happen.
“Fortunately this type of destructive event is extremely rare. NASA and its partners have identified more than 95% of all asteroids that are large enough to cause a global catastrophe and none of those found pose a threat within this century.”
However, he did remind people of the Tunguska event: "110 years ago this month, an asteroid about 50 yards across entered the atmosphere and exploded over a remote part of Russia creating a blast that leveled an area of forest larger than 700 square miles.”
Included in the plan are three concepts that could be deployed if an object like this were headed for the Earth. These include:
- Launching a large enough spacecraft to affect the object by gravitational pull
- A "kinetic impactor" that would basically crash a spacecraft into the object to veer it off its trajectory
- Deploying a nuclear weapon to either break an object up and/or deflect it off a course to impact Earth
It was made clear, however, that—despite movies to the contrary—astronauts wouldn't risk their lives to attempt to do any of the above.
The way that you think about stress can actually transform the effect that it has on you – and others.
- Stress is contagious, and the higher up in an organization you are the more your stress will be noticed and felt by others.
- Kelly McGonigal teaches "Reset your mindset to reduce stress" for Big Think Edge.
- Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Three scientists publish paper proving that not Venus but Mercury is the closest planet to Earth
- Earth is the third planet from the Sun, so our closest neighbour must be planet two of four, right?
- Wrong! Neither Venus nor Mars is the right answer.
- Three scientists ran the numbers. In this YouTube video, one of them explains why our nearest neighbour is... Mercury!
The blood of horseshoe crabs is harvested on a massive scale in order to retrieve a cell critical to medical research. However, recent innovations might make this practice obsolete.
- Horseshoe crabs' blue blood is so valuable that a quart of it can be sold for $15,000.
- This is because it contains a molecule that is crucial to the medical research community.
- Today, however, new innovations have resulted in a synthetic substitute that may end the practice of farming horseshoe crabs for their blood.
The distance between the American dream and reality is expressed best through literature.
- Literature expands our ability to feel empathy and inspires compassion.
- These ten novels tackle some facet of the American experience.
- The list includes a fictional retelling of the first Native American to graduate from Harvard and hiding out in inner city Newark.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.