NASA is Using a Real Asteroid to Test Earth's Asteroid Defense System

Friday, 06 October 2017 - 10:01AM
Space
Astronomy
Technology
Friday, 06 October 2017 - 10:01AM
NASA is Using a Real Asteroid to Test Earth's Asteroid Defense System
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via Pixabay
If there's one lesson that humanity has learned from the dinosaurs (except that feathers aren't as cool as scales), it's that we should beware the destruction that asteroids can bring.

One big hunk of rock hitting the planet hard enough could kill us all, slowly, painfully, and without escape. While solar flares are perhaps a more pressing threat to our modern way of life, it's important not to overlook the extinction event that transformed T-Rexes into chickens, and made us the dominant force of change on this planet.

Ever cautious of the dangers that asteroids could pose to our life on Earth, NASA is taking an opportunity to test our collective readiness for a big asteroid collision event. Next week, a big asteroid is going to pass relatively near to our world (while still, thankfully, being so far away that we don't need to consider a Deep Impact or Armageddon type counter-attack). Scientists aren't exactly sure how close the thing will get to us, but they're pretty confident that it won't venture closer than 4,000 miles away.

Still, though, in the cosmic sense, this is a pretty near miss, and that means that NASA has the chance to monitor and learn from the trajectory that the asteroid will take. Scientists plan to use all of our tracking equipment and detection tools in order to study how the asteroid moves.



What's more, this provides a good opportunity for an asteroid safety drill, testing how well humanity's disparate space agencies and scientific research bodies can work together in the event of a dinosaur extinction-level threat hurtling towards our comfy little home.

According to NASA's Michael Kelly:

Opening quote
"Scientists have always appreciated knowing when an asteroid will make a close approach to and safely pass the Earth because they can make preparations to collect data to characterize and learn as much as possible about it. This time we are adding in another layer of effort, using this asteroid flyby to test the worldwide asteroid detection and tracking network, assessing our capability to work together in response to finding a potential real asteroid threat."
Closing quote


It's always great when space agencies and other global stargazing organizations manage to work together to achieve a common goal. With a lot of the planet's current space plans revolving around an air of cooperation and synergy, moves like this will hopefully help strengthen ties between nations and help to make humanity's combined, unified space exploration a reality.

It'll also be interesting to see whether various commercial bodies can work together in these kinds of endeavors as well - corporate competition is currently as cutthroat as the original Space Race ever was, which is understandable considering the profits that space flight can bring in, but too much infighting and secrecy is only going to hurt our technological development in the long run.

Heck, if a giant astronaut were hurtling towards Earth, nobody would want the fate of humanity to hinge on whether or not Elon Musk can play nice with his business rivals.

Here's hoping that the Armageddon dry run goes off without any unnecessary drama between various parties, and that ties between different spacefaring groups can be strengthened by sharing each other's telescopes.

After all, if we can't choose to work together in the event of a deadly asteroid strike, any future sentient life on Earth will remember us solely as the species that were more likely to watch a Michael Bay movie about stopping an asteroid strike than actually stop one in real life.
Science
NASA
Space
Astronomy
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