How Should We Deal With Future Near-Earth Asteroids? In the Words of NASA: ‘Pray’

NASA chief Charles Bolden did not have many reassuring words for the U.S. House of Representative Science Committee when he spoke recently about his agency's efforts to track and mitigate recent threats from space.

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The common military proverb notes “there are no atheists in a foxhole,” during wartime, and apparently to NASA, the entire Earth feels like a foxhole when confronted by a giant asteroid. NASA chief Charles Bolden did not have many reassuring words for the U.S. House of Representative Science Committee when he spoke recently about his agency’s efforts to track and mitigate recent threats from space.

“From the information we have, we don’t know of an asteroid that will threaten the population of the United States,” Bolden said last week. “But if it’s coming in three weeks, pray.”

(MORE: It’s the Little Asteroids That Get You)

The series of talks convened by the Science Committee were prompted by recent events that saw an asteroid roughly 50 feet in diameter to explode over Chelyabinsk, Russia on February 15. The blast injured 1,200 people, shattered windows and damaged buildings when it entered the Earth’s atmosphere and spontaneously combusted. That same day, in a completely unrelated (and this time, expected) incident, an asteroid discovered by amateur astronomers and followed by NASA passed a mere 17,200 miles from our planet – within the orbital belt of geostationary satellites. The asteroid was a near miss, to be sure, but the Russian meteor caused most alarm because it had arrived completely undetected, causing governments around the world to reconsider their asteroid defense programs.

Though Bolden did call attention to how unprepared we are with technology to deal from the impact of a collision with a NEO (near earth object), he attempted to assuage fears by noting that the probability of such objects impacting Earth within the next 100 years is “extremely remote.” The space agency has been documenting and collecting data on NEOs for over 15 years, and it is responsible for the discovery of about 98% of all known NEOs — a total of about 10,000.

(PHOTOS: Russia Meteor Explosion Shatters Windows, Injures Hundreds)

But former NASA astronaut and founder of the B612 Foundation (a nonprofit dedicated to protecting Earth from asteroid impacts) Edward Lu, wasn’t optimistic about the future of tracking these dangerous space rocks. “For every one we know about, there are a hundred more we don’t know about. Most of the Earth is unpopulated and we could get lucky,” he told the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space last week.

The good news, though, is that if given adequate warning, our current technology is advanced enough to deflect such asteroids. And our spotting technology is on the rise, too: the Sentinel telescope, a project coordinated by the B612 Foundation is expected to discover and catalog 90% of the asteroids larger than 459 feet (140 meters) in our region of the solar system. Until its launch in July 2018 though, it looks like all we can do in the face of space rocks is pray that they’ll pass us by — and yes, that’s NASA’s official order.

MORE: The Storm of Space Rocks: Nothing to Worry About – For Now 

7 comments
Marcelo
Marcelo

but a prophecy, this has to happen, I want and hope. A sign of the end times. No way out. The time in the end.

marcelo from Brasil.

AlexGuevara
AlexGuevara

STANDARD

Do not believe any of this… you are all being deceived.

Please hear Dr. Carol Rosin – Manager of Fairchild Industries testimony at this link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ALLUuvsVkM

If you want to hear other credible testimony as to how they are doing this, click this link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpHAxxRKksQ

If you want to know what is being done about this, click here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=SJZ8wZrCCv0

If you want to see the big picture, click here:

http://www.exopoliticalresearchgroup.com/overview.html

JamesNesfield
JamesNesfield

bolden is a darling of obama and has no real scientific merits to his credit, stop trusting idiot administrative people instead of listening to the scientists who should be running the game

Heian
Heian

@JamesNesfield Are...you a scientist? Or do you get your information from other sources?

Sounds like you're an idiot, too.

spookiewriter
spookiewriter

@JamesNesfieldWho do you think Bolden is getting his info from? A Magic 8 Ball?

Even the scientists say that if there is a great big rock out there and it's closer than 30 - 50 years away, we just don't have the tech to deal with it. 

-The most promising tech would be to park a small craft next to it and let its mass slowly change the rocks course. This is the best option but the rock needs to be decades away.

-Blowing it up, besides being very hard to do, isn't an option for 2 reasons. 1-if it's real close we still get all the energy from the impact and 2- we can't say where the chunks would go.

-Planting some kind of rocket on the thing and fire it up to push it into a better course? Just how big do you think these engines need to be to push something that weighs thousands of tons (or more)even a little bit? Sure there's no gravity (yes there is but lets keep this simple) but the asteroid still has lots of mass and inertia can be a real pain to deal with in space.

-Firing some giant frickin' laser beam based on the Moon at it to push it into a different path. Yeah, right...

These "solutions" could only be considered for rocks big enough to be seen. We can't even see the "little" ones until they hit like the Russian event a month ago. To spot meteors they have to be bright enough to see optically or with other devices like radar. Even the really cool scopes can't see a black object on a black background. Radar only works in really close to our planet so that makes it worthless as an early warning method. Well, we would get enough time to take care of a couple bucket list items.

Too many people watch movies or highly speculative "documentary's" and think we can just whip up something in a week or 2, send it off and POW! Problem solved.