Certainly you’ve seen that movie, right? You know the one where an asteroid is hurling towards the Earth and threatening mankind and all other forms of life on the planet as we know it? Well certainly you have at least heard of such a story or dreamt of such a scenario.
Did you know in 1908 an asteroid exploded in the air above Russia? Nobody ever saw it coming or even knew for sure how large the asteroid was. It was estimated that around 30 megatons of destructive energy was released from that explosion. To put that in perspective that’s nearly 1,000 times the destructive force of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.
Now luckily this asteroid exploded deep in the country of Russia, over a forest and not over a city. Millions of lives could have been lost in such a scenario. Imagine standing in your garage on a cold, fall morning as you wait for the garage door to slowly roll up. Right as it does you witness a massive, fiery ball hurling through the atmosphere at hundreds of miles per hour. The image alone would make anyone afraid without needing any more convincing.
But more convincing is what society needs nowadays. The United States government wanted to make sure no such crisis would occur again without at least some warning. So in 1998 the US officially made NASA in charge of finding asteroids that were in Earth’s “hot zone”. The goal was to find and estimate where around 90% of these free-flying space-rocks would be travel.
Ultimately scientists have condensed a list of asteroids that are capable of inflicting harm upon the planet. Around 19,500 midsized asteroids are a threat to the planet (a midsized asteroid is between 330 feet and 3,300 feet). They have also found 981 large asteroids which would essentially be global killers.
The numbers are certainly large but this is hardly something you should worry about. These estimations are asteroids that are simply within proximity of the planet. Very few people realize that every day asteroids crash into Earth’s atmosphere, only to be crushed by intense pressure and heat, or even just streak past the planet in space. NASA is simply covering all there bases and making sure not a single asteroid goes unnoticed.
In the event that an asteroid does need to be redirected, the folks over at NASA are constantly working on plans and contingency plans in case such an event takes place. They do believe that it is possible to slightly alter an asteroids path so that it misses the planet. They would do this by either shooting a rocket at the asteroid, that would “steer” the rock until it is out of the collision course with Earth, or they will be able to cause an explosion that would knock it out of its current trajectory like a garage door malfunction gone bad.
Today in 2011 we don’t need to worry about such a spontaneous massive explosion like the Russian’s experienced in 1908. With the technology that we have available today scientists will be able to see asteroids coming many months in advance.