News Stories

Asteroid Wargames

If an asteroid impacted the Earth, the devastation would be so great that statistically, you are more likely to die from a space rock impact than in a plane crash. When asteroid 2001 YB5 flew past the Earth on January 7, 2002, it missed the planet by 300,000 miles, but at the speed the Earth is travelling in its orbit, that distance amounts to only a few hours.

So what is NASA doing about this? They?re practicing defensive wargames in space, so we can attack an incoming killer asteroid before it gets to us. Peter Schultz of Brown University says, ?We?re going to have some revenge on a comet called Tempel 1 with the Deep Impact mission.?

On the 4th of July, 2005, Deep Impact will reach its target, the comet Tempel 1. The space probe will release a 770 pound projectile into the heart of the comet at a speed of six miles per second, producing a crater the size of a football field. The comet will survive but we?ll learn more about its interior, to help us make future plans about how to deflect a killer comet or asteroid with a nuclear blast.

Teams in the U.S., Japan and Britain are setting up telescopes to search for comets and asteroids that may be heading our way. But a telescope powerful enough to see a small asteroid can only search a small strip of sky at a time and right now, no one is searching in the southern hemisphere. This worries Dr. Duncan Steel, of Salford University in the U.K., who says, ?A third of the sky is currently not being searched because there is no Southern Hemisphere search program. In essence, at the current time, our back door is open because no one is looking down there.?

He warns that humans must learn a lesson from 65 million years ago, when the impact of a giant space rock ended the age of the dinosaurs. ?The dinosaurs were just not smart enough to spot their nemesis coming and do something about it - but we are,? says Steel.?I think it would be grossly stupid of us not to tackle it head-on.?

To learn more, read ?Dark Matter, Missing Planets and New Comets? by Tom Van Flandern, click here.

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