The fact that an asteroid can be a threat to life on Earth is worrying, and although the chances of this happening again are very low, specialists in the field already have a plan to avoid it.
Through a series of studies and research on the behavior of asteroids that travel “close” to Earth’s orbit, NASA announced that it is already taking action, and decided to publish its plans to detect and divert a space object potentially dangerous.
During the next few years, the space agency will define and design all possible ways to destroy a potentially dangerous asteroid heading towards our planet. The report, titled NATIONAL NEAR-EARTH OBJECT PREPAREDNESS STRATEGY AND ACTION PLAN,” was developed in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and was published by the Office of Science and Technology Policy of the White House.
The report, which explains in detail how the agency will work to detect and destroy asteroids before they can hit our planet, also includes the action protocol to follow in the event of an impact. According to NASA, there are three techniques that could be used depending on the size of the space rock and the amount of time we have from the first warning.
The first is a gravity tractor, which is a large spacecraft that approaches the asteroid so that its gravity can attract it and take it out of course. The second is to use a kinetic kicker, which consists of literally crashing a spaceship on the asteroid to change its speed and orbit. It is planned that this method will be tested in the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission scheduled for the summer of 2021. Finally, and perhaps as a last resort, a nuclear device could be used against an incoming asteroid that can destroy it to pieces and thus causing the small fragments burn in the Earth’s atmosphere.
For now, NASA works with ground-based telescopes around the world to detect and track near-Earth objects. That information is sent to the international asteroid warning network and to the Office of Outer Space Affairs of the United Nations (UNOOSA), which can warn countries about the imminent impact of asteroids.