NASA plans to protect planet Earth against asteroids

Asteroids pose a significant threat to our planet. Not only the massive but also the smaller ones pose threat as they land at a very high speed when they enter the orbit.

NASA, on Wednesday, presented a new strategy and five chief goals to protect earth from these destructive objects. In collaboration with The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), they produced a report named “National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan” elaborating on their strategies and theories. 

The chief goals majorly focus on boosting the ability to detect Near-Earth Objects (NEOs), along with the ability to forecast their landing sites and impacts of the same on Earth. In addition to that, they aim to produce technology to destroy or deviate the asteroids near or in the orbit of our planet.

According to reports, NASA will continually be working on their ability to detect and remotely identify the NEOs and analyzing how and when they may affect the planet.

Generally, it is believed that the larger the asteroid is, the more destruction it brings. But, the larger ones are easier to detect than the smaller. Hence, the more massive objects somehow pose a lesser threat. Since they are caught quickly, they can be rapidly identified and acted upon as well. On the other hand, the ones with sizes ranging from 40 to 140 meters only aren’t as easy to be detected.

This hazardous potential of smaller asteroids has been pointed out in the report through the Tunguska event. In that, an asteroid of about 40-60 meters in size thrashed over a Russian town and devastated over 2,000 square kilometers of forest. Further, the report says that there are more than 30,000 bigger than 40-meter objects that are hazardous in the current situation and “would be very challenging to detect more than a few days in advance.”

The strategy and action plan are the answer to the threats, according to NASA.

NASA has planned out missions to approach asteroids to get “up-close imagery, compositional information and mass measurements” of them. But for the short term, NASA aims to work on technologies to eliminate threats from NEOs broadly in two different ways. One is through “Kinetic impactors,” which would disrupt the NEOs’ orbit and “Gravity tractors,” which would gradually change their orbit. 

Further, NASA also aims to examine whether nuclear weapons can be used to eradicate the asteroids.