Imagine a 1,600ft asteroid hurtling towards the Earth at a speed of 63,000 miles per hour? What would happen if it collides with the Earth? The answer is simple, the results will be catastrophic beyond imagination. After working out some maths, scientists at NASA have come up with an estimated probability of 1 to 2700 that an asteroid named ‘101955 Bennu’ may collide with the Earth. So what are the plans to safeguard human species? NASA has come up with a rather exhilarating sci-fi movie-like premise to curb such a catastrophe. In simple terms, NASA is considering nuking the incoming asteroids or Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) to be more specific that can potentially pose a problem to our planet.
Space is filled with billions and trillions of asteroids, meteorites and other celestial bodies spread throughout its length. A rather specific asteroid named 101955 Bennu is a massive 1,600ft object which is orbiting the Sun and might pose a potential threat to the Earth in next 100 years. Scientists have estimated the date September 21, 2135, when there are 1 in 2700 probability that the ginormous 87 million tons asteroid will collide with the Earth causing massive catastrophe. Although it is smaller than the 6-mile asteroid that collided with the Earth eradicating the reign of dinosaurs from the face of the Earth, it is still a 1,600 ft object that can cause far-fetched destruction. Isn’t there anything we can do?
NASA has the answer for this problem or at least, a century time to work out on it. NASA has established a mission ‘HAMMER’ or ‘Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response’ with the aim to eliminate asteroids like Bennu. In case of a close encounter or a flyby by an asteroid, the spacecraft will use a method called ‘impactor’ that will literally nudge the asteroid to change its transiting path away from Earth. But such method will only impact smaller asteroids. In case if the asteroid is larger than what ‘impactor’ can be effective to nudge, then, the spacecraft will be equipped with nuclear warheads that will be detonated to destroy it at once. Although this method is more effective in avoiding any potential collision with the Earth, it will shoot up the chances pieces of asteroids that will spread out over a larger area. Therefore, the ‘impactor’ method is assumed as a more sensible option, however, researchers will have to find a way to make it more efficient and plausible.
Although officials from NASA wouldn’t reveal the cost of mission as of now, a popular website compared a similar program called ‘OSIRIS-REx’ which is a spacecraft sent to study ‘Bennu’ which cost around $800 million.
According to the data, Bennu is presently orbiting the Sun at a safe distance, however, it will make a close encounter to Earth on September 21, 2135, with a chance of 1 in 2700 that the asteroid might hit the planet. Further, NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (NEOS) has identified 73 asteroids ranging from smaller house-sized asteroids to larger stadium-sized asteroids with a probability of 1 in 1600 that it might collide with the planet and note that, there are hundreds of other asteroids that might pose threat to Earth-originating from outer space.