A century ago, an event in far-off Siberia gave us a wake-up call. That explosive event over remote Tunguska is generally viewed by scientists as a large space rock that pierced through the atmosphere of Siberia, then detonated to flatten some 2,000 square kilometers of trees. Could modern technology stop such an event from happening today?perhaps in a crowded city?

Researcher Ray Williamson says, “The Tunguska event just 100 years ago reminds us that the threat of an asteroid strike is real. If that object had struck in New York City or London, it would have killed hundreds of thousands and created untold fear in human hearts. Yet, as near Earth object strikes go, it was relatively small. We need to be much better prepared than we are today to deal with this important, if uncommon, threat by creating the international institutions and governance methods to find objects likely to strike Earth and devise the means to divert them from Earth’s path.”

Enter former Apollo astronaut, Russell L. (Rusty) Schweickart. Thwarting the threat of Earth-colliding asteroids is something he?s extremely interested in doing. While a civilization-smashing impact from a space object is a low probability, it is not zero?and there are other trouble-makers out there too. They are the smaller asteroids, in far greater number and could wreak havoc on our world, but in a more localized way. Schweickart thinks that nations around the globe need to consider and embrace steps that can help mitigate the destructive nature stemming from an asteroid striking our planet. Coming to grips with this challenge, Schweickart feels, is a matter of humanity?s readiness not to be dinosaurs?thought by many scientists to have been the victims of a huge asteroid impact some 65 million years ago. But he’s optimistic, and says, “The marriage of we human beings and the machines that we’ve created are now at a level of capability which enables us to?stop this process from occurring again.”

Photo credit: NASA

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