Fatal encounter: NASA says we can't avoid asteroid disaster

Redaction 03/05/2021 21:28 PM, updated 05/05/2021 10:51 PM

A group of scientists from the space agencies of the United States e Europe recently conducted an exercise to study options for avoiding an asteroid's impact on Earth. And the results are worrying: even if the rock was detected six months in advance, there would not be much we could do to prevent a major disaster.

The exercise, which lasted four days, considers a hypothetical asteroid called 2021PDC, with size “between 34 and 800 meters” and detected at 56,3 million km from us. Each day, scientists advanced a few weeks in time and discovered more details of the threat, such as size and trajectory.

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On the first day, the asteroid was uncovered. In this scenario, a week later, scientists determined that there was a 5% probability of impact six months after the discovery.

On the second day, the team advances in time and new analysis of the trajectory shows that 2021PDC “certainly” will reach Europe or North Africa. Efforts begin to design a mission that could destroy the asteroid or alter its trajectory.

But the scientists concluded that such missions would not be able to take off in the short time before impact. In real life, with the current capacity we would not be able to launch any spacecraft in such a short time.

One option considered was to detonate a nuclear explosive near the asteroid, in the hope of destroying it or altering the route. "Sending a mission for nuclear disruption could significantly reduce the risk of damage from the impact," they said, but it would not be able to prevent it from happening.

At this point, all that could be done would be to evacuate the impact region as soon as possible.

An officer of the NASA explains that these exercises help the planetary defense community to communicate with each other and with our governments to ensure that we are all coordinated in the event that a potential impact threat is identified in the future.

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