Every week, it seems, our national news consciousness is convulsed by some new media threat to draw attention to the reports between Cialis bathtub ads. Nuclear Armageddon with North Korea was last week. Here’s one that’s unlikely for now because there’s nothing in it to blame on President Trump.
A new government report acknowledges that we are still unprepared to address an oncoming cataclysmic asteroid impact. Not only are we unprepared to encounter a mammoth blazing ball of primordial rock streaking through the atmosphere toward, hopefully, some place where we are not, we don’t even know which ones could present a danger.
Thirteen years ago Congress mandated NASA do something about the danger of “potentially hazardous asteroids,” ones about the size of 1.5 football fields.
These hunks of debris have been orbiting the Sun in the many thousands since Big Bang days. Once in a while one of these Near Earth Objects comes, well, near Earth. In space terms, a few hundred thousand miles is near and flying by inside the Moon’s orbit is too near. Take a peek at the Moon tonight to see the dents left by previous asteroids visiting the neighborhood.
The impact of one of these big dudes could erase a major city or, more likely on a globe 71 percent covered by water, cause a tsunami engulfing an entire coast. For comparison, the Chelyabinsk meteor that exploded over Russia five years ago was “only” about 60-feet wide.
The good news is Earth is no sitting duck. It’s a moving target, traveling through space at eight miles per second on its own neverending solar orbits.
Although the census of catalogued Near Earth Objects has increased nearly five-fold since 2005, current observation technology is likely to detect only about half of these large objects by 2033. Ultimately, in someone else’s lifetime, the goal is to detect asteroids down to 50 meters.
NASA does have a couple of tests in the works to study the composition of one menacing asteroid and another to test what kind of impact could redirect an incoming asteroid without Bruce Willis’ help.
But, wait. There’s more. Much closer to home there’s a growing volume of space debris orbiting Earth about 17,500 miles an hour. Nearly a half-million objects, to be imprecise, everything from spent rockets and dead satellites down to paint flecks. which can do real damage at such speeds if they were to collide with the International Space Station.
Currently, the Defense Department can track objects down to the size of softballs. There are more than 20,000 of them.
Space for now is supposed to be a demilitarized zone. However, in 2007 those sneaky Chinese shot a missile at one of their satellites, hit it and added 3,000 more pieces of space flotsam. (See photo above for all the orbiting dcebris)
In 2009, a dead Russian satellite knocked out an Iridium communications satellite, adding 2,000 more pieces to the high-speed puzzle.
Now, why didn’t Trump do something about that?