Threats from Space: Preparation for Impact


It can be overwhelming to think about the many things floating through space. With all of the planets, moons, and miscellaneous items you may wonder how often collisions happen. After all, there are no organized roads and traffic signs in space. Many items, such as satellites and spacecraft, have shown damage from the impact of debris flying around them. It can be concerning to think about what would happen if these things hit planet Earth. Even though this is a rare occurrence, there is plenty of evidence that points to objects coming in from outer space. There are now plans in place for proper response plans in the case of an impact.

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Dinosaurs
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When we think about items hitting earth, the first thing that often comes to mind is the extinction of the dinosaurs. It has been hypothesized that an asteroid about six miles wide took out the creatures we only know from bones. The crater that is thought to have been caused by this is about 110 miles long. The massive size, coupled with an explosion, would have made huge changes to environment. The initial impact caused an explosion and massive climate change. There was a decline in the entire Earth’s species immediately after this event. Studies show that about ¾ of the life on the planet disappeared. Materials found near the site were tested, and found to be of a material found in meteorites. Meteorites are thought, by scientists, to be broken off pieces of asteroids.

Modern Day Asteroids

Asteroids are still in existence today. They are a part of space that we continue to study. While the material is interesting, most of us are concerned about their movement. Can you imagine what an impact, like in prehistoric times, would do today? More alarming, is that these asteroids have orbits that go into the inner part of the solar system. They cross paths with the Earth’s orbit, as well. It seems to be more of a waiting game at this point. There is no question that an impact is possible. The question that most scientists want an answer to is: “when is the next asteroid going to hit?” Thankfully, the majority of the asteroids in orbit at the present time are much smaller than the one that hit during the dinosaurs’ time.

The New Plan

NASA is making response plans in case of a future impact. They have released a document that explains their plans to deal with these threats. The document is called “The National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy Action Plan.”  A near Earth Object (NEO) is what has been coined the reference term for anything that is coming close to hitting us. NASA is working with other science organizations and observatories. The best action plan, so far, is to at least figure out when the impact may happen. It is much easier to prepare when there is some prior notice. This is something we have learned from earthquake disasters. Maps of space items are regularly taken and sent to everyone that can study or assist.

Defense

You may think that the only thing you can do is run for cover, however, NASA is coming up with other options. The idea is to deflect the asteroids or meteorites away from Earth when they come near. There may also be the option to lessen the trauma of the impact by breaking up the item before it hits Earth. This would result in less pressure on impact and smaller explosions. There is also a concern that one part of the world may not be aware of the situation. The main goal of solving this is to make this a global effort. International awareness and research is the only way to keep everyone safe. These items have been studied since the early 1970s. Now that we know more, it is time to implement an action plan.

Impacts to the Earth from space items is a legitimate fear among scientists. There is evidence all over the world of small and large objects having hit the Earth. Early detection and preparedness are the only ways to avoid a major disaster. The Earth’s species can easily be wiped out by a sizeable explosion. NASA is working with a large number of research specialists to make sure this does not happen again.

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