A recent study showed that the U.S. and China are the nations most vulnerable to a devastating meteorite strike. With funding uncertain, astronomers are struggling to contain the threat of a civilization-ending galactic visitor.
There are between one and two million near-Earth objects (NEOs) — chunks of space rock whose orbits may pass within 30 million miles of Earth — that pose a significant impact threat to the planet.
Of the 4,535 NEOs detected and tracked (704 of which are real whoppers), none are on a definite collision course, but there could be millions more, many of them potentially lethal, lurking in the cosmos.
so far is 820-foot-wide 99942 Apophis. Discovered in 2004, it briefly presented a 1-in-38 chance of collision on April 13, 2029. As more data helped scientists to pinpoint its orbit, Apophis has since been downgraded to 1 in 45,000 in 2036 — still the biggest collision threat in the known universe.
A handful of scientists, both at NASA and the privately funded B612 Foundation, have proposed various protocols for diverting or destroying a collision-course NEO. None currently have funding, although the asteroid fly-by mission Dawn will launch this month.
And NASA has looked into using existing rocket and spacecraft technology to land an astronaut on an asteroid, a move that, if successful, could help hone future deflection strategies. Here, a few plans on how to save the planet.
Om vi inte kan ta oss i kragen och lösa våra problem, är det här nog inte en så dum idé när man tänker efter…