WATCH: NASA unveils programme aimed at preventing asteroid apocalypse | Fin24

WATCH: NASA unveils programme aimed at preventing asteroid apocalypse

Jun 22 2018 21:08
Justin Bachman, Bloomberg


Among earth’s natural disasters — hurricanes, floods, earthquakes — the one humans probably ponder least is asteroids, huge objects zipping through our solar system at ludicrous speeds.

Federal officials call an asteroid or comet collision “low probability but high consequence,” NASA-speak for it will probably never happen, but if it does we’re toast.

With that in mind, the US and other nations have long sought to track such “near-earth objects,” or NEOs, coordinating efforts through the International Asteroid Warning Network and the United Nations.

The Trump Administration now wants to enhance those efforts to detect and track potential planet killers, and to develop more capable means to deflect any that appear to be on a collision course.

“Fortunately, this type of destructive event is extremely rare,” said Aaron Miles, an official with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Just to be safe

But just to be safe, the government unveiled new goals this week for NASA’s work on countering NEOs over the next decade. If you’re envisioning Bruce Willis or humming an Aerosmith song, please stop. This is serious.

More than 300 000 objects larger than 40 meters wide orbit the sun as NEOs, according to NASA estimates, with many being difficult to detect more than a few days in advance.

Forty meters is about the average size an object must be to make it through the atmosphere without burning up. Thousands of much-smaller meteors disintegrate harmlessly each day far above the planet.

The meteor that injured more than 1 000 people in Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February 2013, mainly by glass shattered from the shock wave of its explosion, was believed to be about 20 meters wide.

The most recent encounter with an asteroid was on June 2, when a 2-meter boulder dubbed 2018 LA entered the atmosphere at 10 miles per second and exploded over Botswana.

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nasa  |  natural disasters  |  asteroids  |  world economy


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