NASA unveiled a new plan to counter asteroid threats

According to statistics, the chances that you will die from asteroid has a much lower chance of being killed by lightning. From time to time space the stones closer to our planet, but the vast majority of cases all ends well – the asteroid will fly past just a few hundred thousand kilometers from Earth. After all, our planet is on the background of vast cosmic space is too small a target for punches.

Space agencies around the world conduct daily monitoring of near-earth objects and can pre-warn of possible collisions. However, there are times when dangerous rapprochement is inevitable, but this became known just a few hours before the probability of an event. This year there were at least two such incidents. The first occurred in April, the second – most recently, in early June. In both cases, the emergence of cosmic threat was for the scientists a real surprise. Fortunately both of them were relatively small in size, about 140 meters in diameter (such asteroids have been officially recognized potentially dangerous).

Space Agency NASA this state of Affairs is not satisfied, so it is with some other us Federal agencies have developed a strategic plan to counter asteroid threats. The team dubbed the “Interagency working group on identifying and reducing threats of collisions with near-earth objects (Interagency Working Group for Detecting and Mitigating the Impact of Earth-bound Near-Earth Objects, DAMIEN) recently submitted a 20-page report which describes the potentially hazardous asteroids, as well as some possible solutions to mitigate asteroid threats for the next decade.

“The country already has significant scientific, technical and operational capacities to prevent asteroid threats. The approval of a special plan of preparation to repel potential threats from near-earth objects will significantly increase the readiness of our country and international partners for effective responses to these threats,” said the officer of the planetary protection NASA’s Lindley Johnson.

The new plan is based on a list of strategic objectives presented in 2016. One of the described issues, indicated a low efficiency in detecting near-earth objects. We have already mentioned two cases where NASA missed potentially hazardous asteroids literally under his nose. This also is attributed to and low efficiency of programmes for further monitoring of these objects.

At the moment scientists know of the existence of about 8,000 potentially hazardous near earth objects, however, according to experts, this is only a third of the actual number of objects that there actually are and are a potential threat to our planet.

“According to the report, in 2017, based on our current technical capabilities to 2033 will be detected only half of the total number of near-earth objects with a diameter of 140 meters and more,” reads the new document.

The newly formed team of technical experts to adequately assess the problem and currently working to resolve issues that will enable us to reach new levels of efficiency in finding and tracking dangerous near-earth objects.

“If there is a real threat we will be ready together to discuss existing information, develop solutions and communicate these data to people who will make the final decision,” said Johnson during a press conference introducing the report.

This is only the first paragraph of the five, which is described in the prepared document. The other two said about the need for improving the quality of modeling and forecasting of the hazards as well as the creation of a platform for international cooperation in addressing these issues.

There is also a paragraph that describes the action plan in the case that the detected object will represent not a theoretical, but a direct, imminent threat. In other words, we are talking about how to repel asteroids that take a direct course to Earth. NASA in this case has several proposals. Some of them, the Agency developed previously. And rightly so. For example, according to the latest projections, with a probability of 1 to 2700 in 2135 year of the Earth may fall 492-meter asteroid “Bennu”.

As one of the response options offered to blow up the asteroid by a nuclear missile. Even if the nuke can’t destroy the “Bennu”, the shock wave, according to scientists, could push the space rock threat trajectory approach. Another option is the use of so-called impact spacecraft.

NASA is going to conduct the first tests of a method to deflect an asteroid in the 2020s, the years with the launch of the mission Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). In her framework is proposed to guide in the direction of the asteroid “Didim” impact spacecraft weighing 500 kilograms. Completing the first part of a scientific mission to explore near-earth asteroid “Orpheus”, the impact probe will travel to its core purpose. Moving with a speed of about 6 km/s and hitting the side of the asteroid “Didim”, the unit will be able to slightly shift the direction of motion of the asteroid and its speed, about 0.4 mm/sec. Despite such a modest figure, more dolgorukovoj term, this will significantly change its trajectory.

Also in the future to reflect asteroid threats, the use of nuclear charges for the partial destruction of the objects into smaller pieces, which will pose less danger. And among the alternatives include a proposal for a large “the gravitational spacecraft” that would use technology of gravitational tug and divert the objects with dangerous trajectories.

Further develop the preliminary draft of the missions on the deflection of asteroids, and the construction and testing of the systems to a safe near-earth objects will be conducted aerospace Agency NASA in conjunction with the Administration of the national nuclear safety and the Ministry of defense.

The last part of the report, NASA allotted to the description of potential next steps in the worst scenario when to reject or destroy heading towards Earth asteroid threat will not be possible.

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