Why is NASA looking to target asteroids threatening Earth with nuclear missiles?

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An asteroid collision with Earth is not a scenario any country wants to be in, as emptying large urban areas would be a daunting task.

A NASA asteroid defense expert told Newsweek that if scientists discover an asteroid coming towards us a few months away, blasting it to pieces will not be an exclusionary idea.

Author Ed Brown, in His report This scenario has only been realized in the world of science fiction until now, published by Newsweek magazine, but the threatening asteroid impacts is something that scientists take seriously in the real world.

The threatening asteroid impacts is something scientists take very seriously in the real world (Getty Images)

Imagine scenario simulation

This week, NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies – known as (CNEOS) – led a fictional scenario, mandating delegates to the Seventh Planetary Defense Conference of the International Academy of Aeronautics – known as (IAA) – to respond to an imaginary asteroid that is set to He hits the ground.

The scenario envisions that scientists have discovered that the asteroid named “2021 PDC” will collide with our planet within only 6 months, and this means that its removal away from us is unthinkable. If this were a reality, scientists would seriously consider launching a nuclear bomb on it, according to Lindley Johnson, a NASA planetary defense officer, but it would not be an ideal option.

“I call this (a Hollywood-style solution),” Johnson told Newsweek, “It’s not entirely out of reach. In fact, there were some presentations and discussions at the conference along the lines of: Can nuclear weapons be used to break an asteroid into parts small enough to take over the Earth’s atmosphere?” Her command? ”

“This solution is not entirely outlandish, but it is a scenario we want to avoid,” Johnson added. “First of all, time constraints put pressure on the issue of verifying that everything works. The other thing, of course, is that the deployment and use of nuclear devices in space is severely restricted by virtue.” International agreements”.

The Near Earth Object Studies Center specializes in early detection of asteroids (Getty Images)

Early detection scenario

Instead, Johnson stresses the importance of early detection of the asteroid, something that groups such as the NEO Studies Center specialize in. There is also an international asteroid warning network that Johnson says has signatures from dozens of countries in the world.

The writer mentioned that part of the goal of the scenario discussed at this year’s conference is to contribute to informing people of the importance of early monitoring. “An asteroid collision with Earth is likely to be one of the few natural disasters that can be prevented, if we discover it early and have a chance to do something about it,” Johnson said.

“This time, this exercise was a bit different, as we wanted to involve the emergency response community to manage disasters more. So we have to think seriously about having to take a hit on the ground, and prepare the emergency response personnel in disaster management with the effects they might expect,” he added. And potential harm. ”

Usually, an asteroid is detected using optical telescopes because it tends to reflect light from the sun. Telescopes can detect asteroids at much greater distances than radar systems can. But at the same time, the work of optical telescopes is limited by the cycle of night and day, weather, and even light pollution from the moon.

One way to overcome this obstacle is placing optical telescopes in space, but it is not as simple as taking a look using the Hubble Space Observatory, which has a very narrow field of view.

The telescope we need for early detection of asteroids should have a wide field of view (Getty Images)

Future projects

In this regard, Johnson said, “The type of telescope that we need for this work should have a very wide field of view, so that it can cover the sky much more quickly. What we want to build is a project that is still being formulated now, called (Object Watcher) Near-Earth) and is specially designed for the task of discovering and tracking asteroids far from Earth. ”

At the same time, NASA is also working on testing the dual asteroid rerouting, scheduled to be launched in late 2021 or 2022, and by targeting the “Didymus” asteroid double system, it will be a showcase for the technology that NASA hopes will be able to push the asteroid away if the possibility appears A collision with the ground is possible.

Johnson explained that an asteroid collision with the Earth is not a scenario in which any country wants to be, noting that emptying large urban areas would be a “daunting task.” “I think that thinking about responding to this scenario will be difficult for any country, that is, the inability to change the direction of the asteroid in space and having to endure the strike,” he added.

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