Stopping Earth-Bound Asteroids: Are We Prepared for a Natural Disaster Scenario?

Stopping Earth-Bound Asteroids: Are We Prepared for a Natural Disaster Scenario?

In a couple of weeks, an emergency response drill will take place at the Planetary Defense Conference in Washington, D.C.There, astronomers, emergency management experts, planetary scientist, meteoriticists, rocket scientists and other experts will work together to practice our response if a giant asteroid or comet would be coming towards us

Although threats of this type are not very common, they do hit at random, so planning for a way to survive is essential. Fortunately, we are close to reaching a point where we could predict them, using performant telescopes and simulating their orbit, and come up with a defense plan.

Finding Solutions for Potential Dangerous Scenarios

As a research scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, I study what happens to the atmosphere and crust of a planet when an asteroid or comet hits and possible ways to stop that from happening. I use the supercomputers at Los Alamos, some of the fastest in the world, to run high-fidelity simulations to model the physics of an impact accurately. These simulations are updated continuously with cutting-edge data from NASA missions and Earth-bound laboratory experiments.

Scientists from national laboratories and NASA centers study particular what-if scenarios.

Studying the Eventuality of An Asteroid Approaching Earth

Asteroid Bennu approaches Earth once every six years so that astronomers can study it thoroughly. Using computer models, they researched two ways of pushing Bennu off course in the eventuality that it will hit us: smashing it with a cannonball-like kinetic impactor or roasting one side by detonating a nuclear explosive device.

Scientists are also studying another asteroid, Didymoon. Currently, NASA is designing a mission to test what really happens when we hit an asteroid with a kinetic cannonball impactor. They are targeting Didymoon to alter its orbit. The fact that this research is being done now is crucial. If we are hit, we need to have solutions to problems we haven’t faced yet, to even stand a chance to prevent a significant natural disaster.


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