Earth is totally unprepared for any hit by an asteroid or comet, according to experts at Nasa. Talking about cosmic hazards which could be heading towards the planet, Dr Joseph Nuth, who carries out research at the Goddard Space Flight Centre, said the biggest problem was whatever was on its way, there was not much we could do about it.
Due for an asteroid strike
Dr Nuth noted that potetially harmful asteroids were very rare, compared to the little objects which occasionally strike the surface of the planet. However, he said that when you looked at events such as that which killed the dinosaurs, that would suggest they happened every 50 to 60 million years, meaning that we could be due one.
He explained that the Earth had had a close encounter with a comet in 1996 and again in 2014. The second comet came close to Mars, but Dr Nuth said that it had only been spotted less than two years before, meaning there would not be time to launch any deflection mission, if one were possible and it had been on a collision course for Earth.
Looking at launch times, he said it would take five years to launch a spacecraft, so 22 months to plan was not long enough. It comes as Nasa revealed it has launched a planetary defence office. The organisation is suggesting that we build an interceptor rocket which should be tested regularly, along with a spacecraft for observation so we become aware of anything potentially dangerous much sooner.
Dr Nuth said that it would be necessary to cut down a five year launch time to a year to deal with a “sneaky asteroid” which might be coming from a direction which makes it tricky to spot, such s from the sun. However, giving his address, Dr Nuth said that he did not talk on behalf of Nasa and that any missions would have to be passed by Congress.