The 30th of June was the Asteroid Day, while ten days before, the last 20th of June, took place the press conference by the Planetary Defense Coordination Office of the NASA, where it said to have three defensive technics in case of dangerous asteroids for the planet Earth. Even though the probabilities that the planet crashes with an asteroid during the next 100 years are less than the 0,01%, the NASA let us know that it is preparing itself anyway for the eventuality.
Let’s say some number
Even though we could breathe a sigh of relief knowing that at least in the next 100 years the probabilities that an asteroid hits the Earth are really low, the numbers that go around those studies make us scary. The catalogued asteroids are 758 000, of which 1900 potentially dangerous. Even though we are far away from destructive crashes that will sign the humanity, every day on the planet Earth fall down 100 tonns of interplanetary material. It will be enough the crash of a 7 meters asteroid to create the same energy of the Hiroshima’s atomic bomb. And here you have why the NASA started to think about some defensive technics.
The first defensive technic is a gravittational tractor, which is a probe enough big to attract with its gravity the asteroid by passing next to it and diverting its trajectory. In charge of the project there is Lindley Johnson that suggests to pick up rocky material from the asteroid to increase the spaceship’s gravittational attraction. The NASA promises to test the project in the the next decade.
The kinetic impacter is a probe that, launched at fully power and speed toward the asteroid, it will be able to change its speed and orbit. This project is already in a development phase and it will be tested in the 2021 with the mission DART.
The last technic is the one of a nuclear weapon, which seems really “Armageddon”, but that, if it will work, it will be able to destroy the asteroid in many pieces enough small to not be dangerous for the planet. Even though this is one of the most efficient technics there will not be any test, but the studies are ongoing, to better improve it in the case that one day we will need to use it.
In case of impact
Meanwhile the NASA is working to further improve the survillance system of the planet, that sees every potentially threat. The survillance system has a web of telescopes and the unfortunate duty to give the allarm, in case a dangerous asteroid is going toward the Earth, is up to the ONU, specifically to the office for the outer space’s affair. The allarm will reach the whole world almost in real time, but before of any public declarations it will have to be verified and validated.
The potentially most dangerous asteroid
At the moment the potentially most dangerous asteroid seems to be 1999 RQ36, that in the 2182 will pass really close to the Earth. The circumference of the asteroid is 510 meters and a crash with it will be devastating. The NASA is constantly looking at it, to try to track the perfect trajectory, by the way, meanwhile the asteroid 1999 RQ36 officially become the potentially most dangerous one. It is predicted that until the 2128, year when will happen the transit dangerously too close to the terrestrial orbit, the NASA will be able to use its defensive techincs. Besides to 1999 RQ36, another potentially dangerous asteroid is Apophis, which will threaten the Earth in the 2036. The last assessments, though, estimate that Apophis has one on a milion possibility to crash the Earth. They are working any way to prompty act in the case that Apophis become a real threat for the planet Earth and the best solution seems to be the one of the gravittational tractor that the NASA promises to try in the next 10 years.
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