5 ways to stop an asteroid from crashing into Earth
Imagine this if you will: Tomorrow, you read the news to find that sea levels are still rising as are food prices. Oh, and a world-ending asteroid is headed straight for Earth.
As unlikely as an asteroid impact is right now, asteroids are very real and have changed the face of the Earth at least once.
After all, it was an asteroid that singlehandedly wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago, paving the way for the “Jurassic Park” films. What’s more, scientists believe it is not a question of “if” but “when” an asteroid will hit Earth again.
But, is there actually anything that humanity can do to save itself? On the occasion of World Asteroid Day today, FMT explores what options humanity has in this unlikely but possible apocalyptic scenario.
1. Push it away
Destroying an asteroid is a monumental effort, and some scientists suggest it would be more feasible to push it out of the way instead.
Ramming a massive object like a spaceship into an asteroid might just be enough to alter its orbit, allowing it to pass Earth without issue.
This is what Nasa did in 2005 when its “Deep Impact” mission saw a 370kg probe knock a comet off course by ramming into it at speeds of 8km/s.
However, this only applies to smaller objects, and a bigger space rock would likely shake off the impact and continue on its merry way towards Earth.
2. Blow it up
With humanity’s arsenal bristling with nuclear weapons, it is quite possible to shoot a nuclear device at an asteroid and allow the ensuing explosion to shatter the rock to pieces.
A 2007 Nasa analysis found that knocking an asteroid off course with nuclear and non-nuclear explosions is plausible, with nukes likely shattering the asteroid.
However, in 2019, researchers at Johns Hopkins University advised against taking this course of action after computer simulations showed that over time, the shattered fragments would reassemble, once again posing a threat to Earth.
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