Last month, experts from other space agencies and NASA around the world faced a problematic hypothetical scenario. A mysterious asteroid heading to Earth from 35 million miles away has just been discovered. It was expected to hit the cosmic rock in six months. The situation was fictional, the training took place for a week, and stimulated the asteroid so that American and international experts could practice how to respond to such a situation.
The group learned a difficult lesson through stimulation. If an Earth-bound asteroid is found with a little warning, the Earth’s collision cannot be stopped. Experts have found that there is no technology available to prevent asteroids from sticking, given the six-month period of the scenario. No spacecraft can record an asteroid or push it away from its path.
Paul Chodas, Director of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, recently helped perform simulations and assisted with five previous simulations. Participants said that this movement would fail. “This is what we call the short-term warning scenario. It was very challenging by design,” he said.
In fact, if an asteroid, like a hypothetical asteroid, heads to Earth, scientists will need years of warning. It is at least 5 years, according to Paul. Richard Binzel, MIT’s astronomer, says it will take at least 10 years. Faced with a real asteroid threat, Richard said time is the most valuable commodity we could hope for.
However, scientists haven’t been able to determine the maximum of dangerous space rocks passing near Earth, so we are far less likely to receive a 5 or 10 year warning period. Congress tried to solve this problem by ordering NASA in 2005 to find and track 90% of all Earth near objects over 140 meters, at this size a New York-sized city could be wiped out by an asteroid. To date, NASA has only found 40% of objects.