Meteors may be more dangerous than it was previously thought as NASA and its partners are working hard on new strategies which limit the potential threat. During a recent conference James Bridenstine, NASA administrator declared that ignoring meteors is not an option. In 2013 the Chelyabinsk meteor exploded above a populated Russian area, releasing a powerful shockwave that harmed 1,500 people and more than 7,200 buildings. It is estimated that the explosion was on par with up to 400 to 500 kilotons of TNT or 26 to 33 times as powerful as the Hiroshima atomic bomb.
Bridenstine also added that this isn’t something which can be fixed by using methods featured in Hollywood movies. Those tend to focus on a single event, while the threat of meteors is long-lasting and the event which took place in Russia wasn’t a one-time affair.
NASA is Working on Meteor Defense Features
One of the most memorable examples was the Tunguska event when a massive meteorite destroyed 2,000 square kilometers of forest in Siberia. A similar impact took place in Brazil in 1930, and it estimated that other impacts would occur at least once every 60 years.
A meteor larger than 45 meters in diameter can wipe out entire cities, and some could destroy a country. Several space agencies are now working a unified defense protocol, and two major methods are being explored. One option is to destroy the dangerous object. However, this is a bit complicated since there the potential to create a myriad of smaller debris that could cause significant damage in some areas.
The other option is to attempt to alter the trajectory of the object by pushing it in the desired direction or harnessing the power of gravity tractors which can divert the object towards a different target.
The best strategy involves a kinetic impactor. In plain terms, a large spacecraft would impact the meteor at high speed, and the sheer force should determine the object to change its course. More information about these projects will be offered in the future.