Tagged: NASA

Earth woefully unprepared for surprise comet or asteroid, NASA scientist warns

(THE GUARDIAN) — Humans are woefully unprepared for a surprise asteroid or comet, a NASA scientist warned on Monday, at a presentation with nuclear scientists into how humans might deflect cosmic dangers hurtling toward Earth.

“The biggest problem, basically, is there’s not a hell of a lot we can do about it at the moment,” said Dr Joseph Nuth, a researcher with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Speaking at the annual meeting of American Geophysical Union, Nuth noted that large and potentially dangerous asteroids and comets are extremely rare, compared to the small objects that occasionally explode in Earth’s sky or strike its surface. “But on the other hand they are the extinction-level events, things like dinosaur killers, they’re 50 to 60 million years apart, essentially. You could say, of course, we’re due, but it’s a random course at that point.”

Comets follow distant paths from Earth but sometimes get knocked into the neighborhood. Nuth said that the Earth had “a close encounter” in 1996, when an aberrant comet flew into Jupiter, and then again in 2014, when a comet passed “within cosmic spitting distance of Mars”. That second comet was only discovered 22 months before its brush with a planet: not nearly enough time to launch a deflection mission, had it been on a course for Earth.

“If you look at the schedule for high-reliability spacecraft and launching them, it takes five years to launch a spacecraft. We had 22 months of total warning.”

NASA recently established a planetary defense office, and Nuth has recommended that the agency build an interceptor rocket to keep in storage, with periodic testing, alongside an observer spacecraft. Nuth said that NASA could cut that five-year schedule in half, but that even reducing that schedule by a quarter would be “basically a hail-mary pass”.

A rocket in storage and ready to launch within a year, however, “could mitigate the possibility of a sneaky asteroid coming in from a place that’s hard to observe, like from the sun”, he said.

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NASA prepares for asteroid impact within the next 2 decades: “It’s going to happen”

(SHTFPLAN.COM) — NASA is preparing for the big one, as many astronomists have found several major rocks that will be headed straight for earth in the next 10-15 years and beyond.

The threat of a destructive asteroid event encroaching upon our life has become an increasing concern, and it is gaining serious attention. In the long run, it is an inevitability.

Though major asteroids big enough to wipe out life across the entire planet are rare, scientists believe they have taken place and reset entire epochs. Moreover, smaller asteroids, comets or meteors can all do major damage, even if they aren’t record breaking hunks of space rock.

via the UK Metro:

When American government representatives asked NASA head Charles Boden what the best response to a large asteroid headed for New York City would be, his answer was simple: ‘Pray.’

But what would happen if a smaller asteroid hit Los Angeles?

Describing the scenario as a ‘not if – but when,’ NASA recently simulated what would happen if a 300 to 800ft asteroid approached Los Angeles with an 100% chance of impact.

‘It’s not a matter of if – but when – we will deal with such a situation,’ said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

‘But unlike any other time in our history, we now have the ability to respond to an impact threat through continued observations, predictions, response planning and mitigation.’

What will it mean for civilization as we know it? There is a definite threat of an existential crisis that would change the planet over night – though the chances are extremely low, there is still a chance.

How much warning would we have? We could have as little as three days warning of an asteroid which would blast London with the power of a hydrogen bomb.

And it’s possible that we might have no warning at all – at least with a smaller asteroid capable of shattering windows across the city.

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Bigger asteroids could cause nearly unimaginable damage – wiping out many species and plunging Earth into a bleak winter lasting for years – although the larger an asteroid is, the more warning we would have of its approach.

‘The high degree of initial uncertainty coupled with the relatively long impact warning time made this scenario unique and especially challenging for emergency managers,’ said FEMA National Response Coordination Branch Chief Leviticus A. Lewis.

On the other hand, really big asteroid are routinely monitored and there are several known ‘big ones’ that will approach in the next decade or so… and while they might be headed for the planet, space agencies aren’t planning to take it lying down, instead, they have a plan to exploit it as a major opportunity, born perhaps, out of an unavoidable risk they hope to mitigate.

Now that researchers are getting good at spotting these objects and tracking their path, scientists are beginning to formulate workable strategies for knocking any incoming asteroids off their trajectories and even ‘catching’ them in Earth’s orbit to mine and exploit.

This man on stage at a Ted Talk explains what is at stake:

Phil Plait: How to defend Earth from asteroids

Yes, asteroid defense is now a major enterprise, and somewhere in the shadows a team is gearing up to outdo the casts of Armageddon and Deep Impact combined.

When asteroids do hit, the damage they can do is unimaginably catastrophic – and can easily dwarf the power of a nuclear detonation, depending upon the size of the incoming rock.

But what is perhaps worse than a rock that could pack the punch of “3 billion nukes” is one that is just big enough to destroy a major area, but too small for NASA or other groups to track effectively. In fact, the latter scenario happens all the time – not long ago, a big enough meteor hit and NASA had no idea until it was too late.

Will they catch the one that counts? And will anyone be ready if they don’t?

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No, Asteroid Bennu won’t destroy Earth

(SPACE.COM) — NASA’s new asteroid-sampling mission will do a lot of interesting things, but helping prepare humanity for Earth’s imminent destruction is not among them.

There is indeed a chance that the 1,650-foot-wide (500 meters) asteroid Bennu — the target of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which is scheduled to launch next month — could hit Earth late in the 22nd century.

But, mission officials stressed, that chance is slim, and the space rock is not nearly big enough to pose an existential threat to the planet, despite what some media reports claimed over the weekend. [Potentially Dangerous Asteroids (Images)]

“We’re not talking about an asteroid that could destroy the Earth,” OSIRIS-REx principal investigator Dante Lauretta, of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona, told Space.com. “We’re not anywhere near that kind of energy for an impact.”

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NASA HISTORIC ANNOUNCEMENT: More than 1,200 new planets that could hold life found

(UK EXPRESS) — The US space agency has just announced the discovery of the new “exoplanets” which are considered as similar to Earth.

It more than doubles the previous amount of exoplanets found by the Kepler Telescope.

It comes after NASA said they now also believe every star in space has at least one planet orbiting it.

Among the new discoveries are also a further 100 grade A rocky exoplanets which are the most likely for life to begin just like Earth.

It was previously believed that many stars were out there alone, meaning the odds of other Earth-like planets with the right conditions for life to start are much higher than ever believed.

The information has come from astronomers researching swathes of data from the Kepler Telescope mission.

NASA made the major announcement about the latest findings from the Kepler research at an ongoing press conference, so click back on this story which will be updated.

A NASA spokesman said: “When Kepler was launched in March 2009, scientists did not know how common planets were outside our solar system.

“Thanks to Kepler’s treasure trove of discoveries, astronomers now believe there may be at least one planet orbiting every star in the sky.”

Kepler completed its prime mission in 2012, and collected data for an additional year in an extended mission. In 2014, the spacecraft began a new extended mission called K2.

K2 continues the search for exoplanets while introducing new research opportunities to study young stars, supernovae and other cosmic phenomena.

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NASA is funding asteroid spaceships and other far-out concepts

(ENGADGET) — NASA’s annual National Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program awards money to some of the craziest space projects you’ll ever see, and this year is no different. The space agency has just announced the 13 concepts that made it through Phase I, and one of the most interesting entries plans to transform whole asteroids into spaceships. It’s called Reconstituting Asteroids into Mechanical Automata or Project RAMA. The concept is the brainchild of Jason Dunn, co-founder of Made In Space, which developed the 3D printer that’s aboard the ISS. Read more »