Written by Michael Graham Richard
The United Nations (U.N.) seems to agree:
The U.N. plans to set up an “International Asteroid Warning Group” for member nations to share information about potentially hazardous space rocks. If astronomers detect an asteroid that poses a threat to Earth, the U.N.’s Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space will help coordinate a mission to launch a spacecraft to slam into the object and deflect it from its collision course. (source)
Surprisingly, no national space agency – not even NASA – is tasked specifically with deflecting asteroids.
So what’s the next step? Finding the rocks. “There are 100 times more asteroids out there than we have found. There are about 1 million asteroids large enough to destroy New York City or larger. Our challenge is to find these asteroids first before they find us,” said astronaut Ed Lu.
Once you find and track all these near Earth objects, you can calculate their trajectories into the future and see if any are dangerous for us. If you know long in advance, it’s much easier to try to deflect it; even a slight alteration to its course could make it miss Earth. But if we don’t have enough advance warning, there might be nothing that we can do.
Ed Lu is part of the B612 Foundation who’s mission it is to do exactly that. They plan to launch a space telescope: “Sentinel is a space-based infrared (IR) survey mission to discover and catalog 90 percent of the asteroids larger than 140 meters in Earth’s region of the solar system. The mission should also discover a significant number of smaller asteroids down to a diameter of 30 meters. Sentinel will be launched into a Venus-like orbit around the sun, which significantly improves the efficiency of asteroid discovery during its 6.5 year mission.”
You can find more about Sentinel here.
And here’s a speech given at Stanford in 2009 about the danger posed by Asteroids. If you’re a space geek, it’s fascinating:
Here’s everyone’s favorite, Neil deGrasse Tyson speaking on the danger from asteroids:
This post was originally published in TreeHugger
Photo Credit: NASA
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