Are you aware that there are about 30,000 objects that are currently floating near Earth and can someday strike it? NASA has actually labeled 1,600 of them as ‘potentially hazardous’. Such an impact can either result in broken windows or in global extinction and that is why scientists are working very hard to find and either deflect or destroy such space rocks.
A big strike has a very low probability of taking place, the consequences would be enormously catastrophic as per Nahum Melamed, a project manager with the Aerospace Corporation. He recently spoke at an event for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in Manhattan Beach, California about ‘planetary defense’. Let’s take a look at what went down during this speech.
Space features a ton of junk that ranges from old satellites to spacecraft that have been discarded. The situation is getting worse since humans are continuously launching more things into the sky.
Melamed said that the space debris is ‘sure to become a serious problem’, but there’s even a larger problem posing a threat in the form of asteroids that are close to Earth.
The space rocks are leftovers from the formation of solar system (4.6 billion years ago) and even one of those slamming into the Earth would imply the end of us.
The scenario is highly unlikely but the smaller asteroids often come quite close to Earth and thus the need for scientists to keep an eye on them.
In October 2015, scientists were tracking a total of 875 large steroids close to Earth and out of them, 163 have been termed as potentially dangerous considering that their orbit could eventually cross that of Earth’s.
“We are in a shooting gallery,” Melamed said.
For instance, during 2015 scientists spotted a 1,300ft.-wide asteroid only three weeks before it made its pass close to Earth. This time is not enough to prevent a collision, in fact it is not enough to even carry out an evacuation.
“Think about evacuating North America in three weeks,” Melamed said. It served as another wake up call for the scientists.
There have been other recent calls recently as well.
Back in 2012, a rock with a width of 65ft made it to the skies of Chelyabinsk, Russia. It broke up and the explosion shattered hundreds of windows and about 1,200 people were injured.