Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A New National Security Problem: Stopping Killer Asteroids?

A large asteroid will come very close to the Earth today, and this is raising the obvious question:  if it were on a path to hit the Earth, what could we do to stop it?  The asteroid is 2,000 feet wide and will come within 1.1 million miles of the Earth.  If it hit the Earth, it would destroy an entire continent.  This is not just a often-used plot for a Hollywood movie, but a topic of discussion at NASA.  Andrew Follett has an interesting post at National Interest, about NASA's thinking on this unique national security (actually, global security) problem:
“I think that we would have tried very hard to launch an interceptor mission,” Dr. Joseph A. Nuth, a senior asteroid scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“Given the short time to impact this would most likely have been a mission that would target the asteroid on close approach,” Nuth said. “My guess is that the mission would carry the largest nuclear device possible and would try to both disrupt the body and slow its approach.”
NASA’s nightmare scenarios is an asteroid on an impact course with Earth. Nuth isn’t sure NASA could get a mission together in time to stop it. It could take five years just to build a spacecraft capable of the intercept.

“Given the short warning time, the mission might not work,” Nuth said. ” No design is available for such a mission so everything would be done ‘on the fly’ with little review or testing and probably no backup options. ‘Hail Mary passes’ do occasionally work however, so this attempt might work as well.”
. . .
In recent war games, NASA and other federal agencies were unable to deflect a simulated asteroid on course to hit Earth with four years of warning.

The “city-killer” asteroid ended up land off the Southern California coast. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) personnel were forced to coordinate a simulated mass evacuation of the Los Angeles area to mitigate the damages of a potential tsunami.

You can read the full post here.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post , such Asteroids may cause far greater more damage than destruction of an entire continent ( that is, in the best case ) . The physical destruction, is not the only issue, but:

    The domino impact on the ecological system. Ashes would be lifted in huge quantities, and block the sun. Freezing darkness shall reign . Mega volcanoes may erupt, and create huge damage to the environment and lift to the atmosphere, unbelievable amount of sulfide, which in its turn, shall also suffocate our echosystem and atmosphere.

    The only realistic and possible somehow solution , that may reduce the damage , is the following one :
    Once we know the course of an asteroid, and time interval (which is really expected to be so ) we can calculate the hitting point, and right there, build up, huge towers made of steel (I mean huge, 3 km up in the air, and hundreds of meters wide) we can expect asteroid (depends upon the size also) to hit them first, and loose so, much of its energy, before hitting the earth itself. Of course explosives can be put there , at the top of the towers , in huge quantities , and increase the spread of the huge energy before hitting earth .
    Humanity, is capable, and well organized for such project, has to do with sheer motivation , and mechanic engineering in huge scales.

    One may read here on " impact winter " mentioned :