A meteorite even higher than that of an atomic bomb exploded over Russia could fall from the sky unannounced at any time over a large city, causing a horrendous disaster. Despite the messages sent by Hollywood movies, scientists and military experts have a solution for this problem. However, a team of former astronauts want to give humanity a chance.
Earth is always threatened by meteorites, which are pieces of asteroids or comets coming into our planet’s atmosphere. Most meteorites are too small to be detected remotely using tools that astronomers now have access.
Astronauts hope that visits on Friday – when a meteor hit Russia, and an asteroid passed within easy reach of Earth – space will draw attention to the dangers that threaten our planet, encouraging people to do more to detect asteroids and to follow the trajectory.
“After these events will be more people pay attention,” said Rusty Schweickart, a former astronaut who participated in Apollo 9 in 1969. Schweickart helped found the B612 Foundation, which aims to protect the planet. Former NASA astronaut warned for several years that the budget for dangerous asteroids is too small.
Meteorite that broke over the Ural Mountains had an output of 20 times the atomic bomb used on Hiroshima during the Second World War. Most of the energy was absorbed by the atmosphere, but thousands of windows were destroyed and over 1,000 people were injured in Chelyabinsk, a city of one million inhabitants. However, no one has identified meteorite the size of a bus when heading for Earth.
“It was a tiny asteroid size. It is very difficult to detect such an asteroid – not impossible, but difficult, “said astronomer Paul Chodas, who works in the Near-Earth Object Program at NASA.
Regarding the asteroid that passed Friday at a short distance from Earth, even closer than some communications satellites, astronomers have detected Spain just one year ago. So if this asteroid would be directed towards Earth, its detection would be much too late for mankind can still do something. Fortunately, Asteroid 2012 DA14 traveled 27,600 kilometres from Earth with a speed of 28,000 km/h.
Scientists believe that there are other asteroids 500000-1000000 DA14 similar in size to that found at a short distance from Earth. However, experts have failed to identify or 1% of the total. Until now, astronomers have classified 9,600 asteroids are in our neighbourhood, of which 1300 having a diameter larger than a kilometer.
Earth’s atmosphere is hit daily 100 tons of space debris, mostly the size of a grain of sand, burning up to touch the ground.
“These” balls of fire “daily visits our planet, but we see that most fall over the ocean or uninhabited areas. Russian meteorite was an exception, “said Jim Green, director of NASA‘s planetary science.
An asteroid with a diameter of 30-40 meters exploded over Siberia in 1908, destroying 2,136 square miles of forest. Instead, the asteroid led to the extinction of the dinosaurs now about 65 million years ago was huge, measuring 10 km in diameter.
Terra chances to be hit without warning by a giant asteroid “are very small, even extremely small,” says Schweickart. Former astronaut says that “if small asteroids, the situation is completely different, if we are hit by one, most likely we will not know anything before impact.”
That meteorite from Russia: “Mother Nature shows us what a tiny asteroid can do.”
Rusty Schweickart and Ed Lu, a former astronaut leads today another B612 Foundation, says that these elements suggest that commitment is urgently needed funds greater efforts to detect and track asteroids in the vicinity of our planet.
A few years ago, Schweickart and other experts urged NASA to launch a program with annual costs of $ 250 million to conduct a “census” of asteroids and establish an action plan that can allow for changing the trajectory of asteroids threat. After 10 years, the cost of the program would be reduced to 75 million dollars annually.
“Unfortunately, NASA did not follow our recommendations. Today, instead of 250 million NASA have committed to this program, now has only 20 million, or almost nothing, “warns Schweickart.
Bill Cooke, head meteoroid Office Environments of the Marshall Space Center of NASA, the U.S. space agency says that serious about the threat posed by asteroids, endeavor to find better ways to identify them. Annual expenditure dedicated to this effort grew from $ 4 million annually to 20 million annually, emphasizes Cooke.
“NASA recognizes that asteroids, meteors and space debris pose a threat far greater than we realized decades ago,” said Cooke.
B612 Foundation – named after the asteroid from “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery – not willing to settle for NASA efforts, so planning a privately funded mission aims to launch an infrared telescope that will to orbit the sun to “hunt” asteroids.
Schweickart warned that this danger can not be underestimated. Real life is not like in movies like “Armageddon” and “Deep Impact“. Scientists need to know for 12-50-30 years before a dangerous asteroid to approach Earth to endeavor to change the trajectory, warns former astronaut, because it takes a long time a spacecraft launched toward the asteroid to reach the destination.
“Therefore we want to identify them now”, Schweickart concluded.