NASA Has A Plan For Killer Asteroids And It Doesn't Involve Bruce Willis
Experts believe that a killer asteroid - one large enough to level an entire city - will hit Earth approximately every 500 years. There are currently over a million asteroids near Earth, and of these approximately 20,000 could destroy a city.
NASA's Asteroid Retrieval Mission aims to capture an asteroid in order to develop the kind of technology that could save Earth from a "Melancholia"-style massive impact apocalypse. The team behind the mission are hoping to obtain wrangle an asteroid for experimentation by the mid-2020's, however quite how long it will take to develop the world-saving technologies remains to be seen.
Lindley Johnson, who's in charge of NASA's Near Earth Objects Program, explained, "Unfortunately, what you see in Hollywood is not always reality. [But] the capabilities that we're looking at for demonstration by the robotic spacecraft are adding to our knowledge and techniques of what might be done for an asteroid that's on a hazardous trajectory."
The Asteroid Retrieval team will most likely either bring a small asteroid back to Earth, or break off a piece of a larger asteroid. Johnson claimed that the latter would be more appropriate for simulating disaster prevention. They hypothesize that they may be able to use the gravitational force of the spacecraft itself in order to slowly pull the offending asteroid out of its orbit, changing its trajectory and preventing it from colliding with Earth.
In addition to protecting our planet's long-term survival, the project could also help the scientific community learn more about the basic building blocks of the solar system, contributing to future space exploration endeavors, such as NASA's planned sojourn to Mars.
NASA has come under fire from Congress and many others for allocating their spending away from efforts such as reaching Mars or other moons that may have more practical implications, but they insist that this mission will serve as a test run for their efforts to send humans to Mars.