Are scientists ready to destroy dangerous NEOs that could hit the Earth and wipe out humanity? Unfortunately, scientists are not yet prepared for dangerous near Earth objects (NEOs) impacting Earth and the consequences that such a disaster would cause. In 2016, a NASA scientist stated that Earth is not prepared for this catastrophe. In June 2018, the US National Science and Technology Council said that America is unprepared for an asteroid or other NEO impact event. The good news is that scientists are now preparing for this global disaster in the event that it occurred.
One of the many ways scientists are getting ready, for an NEO collision, is by conducting exercises that include imaginary NEOs. The most recent drill was the fictional asteroid called 2019 PDC that was expected to hit Earth in eight years. In this seventh exercise, about the 2019 PDC, scientists mapped various possible scenarios. If this planetoid landed in the Atlantic Ocean, it would cause a monstrous tsunami. If it hit a heavily populated area like New York, millions of people would die. In the event that it struck a depopulated region, it would cause minimal damage. Of course, there was always a possibility that it could completely miss Earth.
Some of you think that these scientific exercises are in vain because you believe that a planetoid or other dangerous NEOs may never hit Earth. Perhaps, you are right, but most scientists will disagree with you. In April 2018, the B612 Foundation said that there is a 100 percent possibility that Earth will be hit by an asteroid, but they are uncertain as to when this will occur.
If an asteroid or other dangerous NEOs hit Earth, it would be much more horrifying than any science fiction or scary film that you ever saw. The impact of an NEO could release as much energy as the explosions of millions of nuclear weapons. Nature would wage a nuclear war on mankind that would cause massive tsunamis, multiple firestorms and an impact winter induced by sunlight blocking effect of placing large amounts of pulverized rock dust and other debris into the stratosphere.
History reveals that a dangerous NEO impacted Earth before. The Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event, the natural disaster that many scientists believe exterminated the dinosaurs, was caused by a dangerous NEO collision that occurred 66 million years ago. According to the law of probability, if it happened once, it could happen again. Even renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, who was a very popular scientist and genius, believed that an asteroid collision was the greatest threat to our planet. The possibility of Earth being struck by an asteroid was one of the many fascinating topics of his final book: Brief Answers to the Big Questions.
By observing and studying dangerous NEOs, scientists plan to protect Earth and its inhabitants in case a deadly collision occurred. All NEOs are not a threat. NEOs that pose a hazard to our planet are those that are bigger than 1 km in diameter. Ever since 2007, scientists have identified about 20,000 dangerous NEOs that are 140 meters or larger. If one of these NEOs ever hit Earth, it would be the most catastrophic event that mankind ever witnessed.
There are many scientific organizations currently classifying and studying dangerous NEOs. Ever since 1947, The Minor Planet Center, which is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has been cataloging the celestial orbits of asteroids and comets. In addition to The Minor Planet Center, places that track NEOs are the following: The Asteroid Terrestrial impact Last Alert System, the B612 Foundation and the NEO Shield among many others.
Unlike an asteroid, a comet looks beautiful in the night sky. Do not let its beauty deceive you into thinking that is not a threat. In fact, comets are even more dangerous if they collided with Earth than asteroids. Since comets move much higher velocities, their impact would be even more destructive if they struck Earth.
After locating and studying dangerous NEOs, the next challenge that scientists face is the best way to destroy them. At this moment, the brightest minds are still figuring out the most effective methods to destroy dangerous NEOs. Asteroid impact avoidance is the term that scientists use to define all the ways to eliminate hazardous NEOs.
According to an analysis by NASA, one of the most effective ways to obviate an NEO is by using nuclear explosive devices. They are assessed to be 10-100 times more effective than any other non-nuclear option.
If scientists ever did use nuclear explosives to detonate an NEO, they could face problems from the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. The 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty prohibits the use of nuclear weapons in space. However, in case a dangerous NEO ever hit Earth and had the capacity to wipe out the entire human race, I believe that would be an exemption to this rule.
Even if scientists were able to destroy or deflect an NEO headed to Earth, it could reassemble itself due to the force of gravity pulling it back together. Let us hope that dangerous NEOs never strike our planet during our lifetime. If the collision ever did occur, the scientists who destroyed the NEO or deviated its path away from Earth would become the greatest heroes of all time.