A week-long exercise led by NASA has shown that space agencies wouldn't be able to stop an asteroid from hitting Earth even if they had 6 months to prepare.
The simulation, or hypothetical scenario, posed an asteroid located 35 million miles away that was anywhere between 114 feet to half a mile in size was going to hit Earth in 6 months. Experts were tasked with developing ways to save Earth, and participating experts found that with the given timeframe, it wasn't possible to launch any type of spacecraft out to it in time to change its trajectory.
The participants said, "If confronted with the 2021PDC hypothetical scenario in real life, we would not be able us to launch any spacecraft on such short notice with current capabilities." Experts also considered launching nuclear weapons at the asteroid to knock it off its hypothetical course with Europe. "Deploying a nuclear disruption mission could significantly reduce the risk of impact damage", said the participants. However, due to the size of the asteroid fictitiously named 2021PDC, the chance of a nuke being effective was unclear.
What is even more concerning is that asteroids of this caliber can and have passed us with little to no knowledge by space agencies. Back in 2019, an asteroid that was 427 feet in width and described as a "city-killer" flew within 45,000 miles of Earth. NASA only knew within days of arriving.
Additionally, in 2005 NASA was tasked with tracking 90% of near-Earth asteroids that had a width of 260-feet or more by 2020. As of December 2020, telescopes have only managed to find less than one-third of these near-Earth objects (NEOs). On top of that, an estimated two-thirds of asteroids that are 460 feet or larger have yet to be found.
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