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Astonishing! NASA says dangerous asteroids about to hit Earth CANNOT be shot down

Hindustan Times logo Hindustan Times 17-08-2022 HT Tech

With so many asteroids flying left and right past the Earth these days, scientists realize it is a question of when and not if an asteroid will strike the Earth. Just last week, the Earth witnessed four different asteroids approaching dangerously close to it. And with the threat of extinction, just like the dinosaurs, looming over our heads, NASA is testing out various strategies to build a planetary defense mechanism which can counter asteroid strikes. Known as anti-asteroid technology, these primarily include using nuclear weapons to shoot down an asteroid into small pieces before it can hit us. But it is not as easy as it seems. Shockingly, NASA has explicitly stated that asteroids which are already too close to the Earth cannot be shot down. Read on to find out why.

On the FAQ section of its Planetary Defense webpage, NASA states, ?An asteroid on a trajectory to impact Earth could not be shot down in the last few minutes or even hours before impact. No known weapon system could stop the mass because of the velocity at which it travels ? an average of 12 miles per second?.

Asteroids too close to Earth cannot be shot down, says NASA

Let us break down the problem with shooting down an asteroid too close to the Earth. Asteroids are extremely fast moving objects, most moving between a speed of 15,000- 35,000 kilometers per hour. At such a high speed, even if the missiles were able to break down the asteroid into smaller pieces, changing its direction will be impossible due to the high velocity of the space rocks. Further, now instead of one large boulder, there are hundreds of smaller but equally deadly stones heading for the planet which will essentially cause an asteroid rain, multiplying the problem.

As a result, it has become crucial to focus on asteroid detection and monitoring their path to assess the risk. Keeping track of these near-Earth objects (NEO) is the only way astronomers can formulate a plan in time to destroy an incoming asteroid well ahead of time. In effect, before it gets too close to Earth.

However, not everything is lost if an asteroid escapes the observation of space agencies and comes too close. NASA is developing a new technology that will hit an asteroid and change its trajectory so it does not hit the Earth. Known as the DART mission, NASA has already sent a rocket in space to collide with an asteroid named Didymos. The collision is scheduled for between September 26 and October 2, 2022. If successful, it should improve our capability of dealing with even asteroids closer to us.

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