In 1998, Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, and other brave souls flew into space and used oil drilling equipment to blow up an asteroid headed toward Earth.
That same year, Elijah Wood discovered another asteroid bound for our planet. Fortunately, Robert Duvall blew it up.
Of course, we are talking about science fiction movies, but asteroids are a real threat. Fortunately, NASA has plans (that don’t involve movie stars) to deal with them.
Over the summer, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy released an 18-page report titled “National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan” that outlines steps to identify and deflect asteroids and how to react. in case one hits.
Currently, NASA’s plans to protect against asteroids focus on crashing spacecraft into asteroids at high speed. The objective is not to destroy the asteroid but simply to redirect it. If an asteroid’s course can be changed even slightly, it could cause it to shoot up harmlessly to Earth.
The United States is not alone in defending Earth against asteroids. China has announced plans to use the Moon as a planetary defense platform. The Chinese plan would involve installing telescopes at the Moon’s north and south poles, along with kinetic weapons. However, the prospect of placing weapons on the moon has drawn criticism.
Asteroids can travel faster than 15 miles per second (54,000 miles per hour). An asteroid just 500 feet in diameter could destroy a large city. An asteroid a quarter of a mile in diameter could cause mass extinctions. NASA, among other organizations, is already looking for asteroids. However, experts estimate that only about 40 percent of the largest asteroids have been mapped. Many smaller asteroids haven’t been mapped either, but they don’t pose as serious a threat.
Fortunately, FEMA’s National Response Coordination Branch has rated the likelihood of a serious asteroid impact as unlikely, but notes that such an impact would be of great significance.