NASA Scientist Warns Of Earth's Unpreparedness For Massive Asteroid EncounterBy Emily Marks, UniversityHerald Reporter
A scientist from NASA has warned that human beings are totally unprepared for an encounter with a massive asteroid. Dr. Joseph Nuth, a researcher with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, made the proclamation on Monday at a presentation on how humans may be able to deflect comets and asteroids hurtling towards the Earth.
"The biggest problem, basically, is there's not a hell of a lot we can do about it at the moment," Nuth said.
The Guardian reported that, at the annual meeting of American Geophysical Union, Nuth revealed that these types of encounters are extremely rare compared to the small objects that come in contact with the Earth. However, these massive asteroids are what he deemed as "extinction-level events," similar to what killed the dinosaurs.
He noted that these gigantic asteroids are about 50 to 60 million years apart. "You could say, of course, we're due, but it's a random course at that point," Nuth added.
Comets usually follow paths that are distant from the Earth but some get knocked near our planet. In 1996, Nuth said that there was "a close encounter" when a comet flew into Jupiter.
Another one was in 2014 when a comet passed "within cosmic splitting distance of Mars." This one was discovered only 22 months before its encounter with a planet, which is not enough time for a deflection mission if it had been hurtling towards Earth. 22 months may seem like a long time but it actually takes five years to launch a spacecraft.
NASA is doing something about this issue, though. According to Space News, the space agency has pressed on with its mission to a near Earth asteroid even when the European Space Agency declined to fund the Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM).
NASA is said to continue developing the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). It would have joined AIM for the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA).