Although NASA deems the chance of an asteroid hitting Earth only as a “once in a millennium type of event” a space expert still wants the United States to bolster the country’s defense against such a possibility.
Each year NASA uses its telescopes and other pieces of space technology to discover previously undiscovered “near-Earth objects”.
More than 27,000 objects have already been discovered, with 2,700 of those being identified in the last 12 months alone, one of which was said to be the size of the Pyramid of Giza and only missed Earth by two million miles – which is considered to be a near miss.
While the likelihood of a large asteroid colliding with Earth remains slim there still isn’t anyone directly assigned to deal with such a problem should it become an issue, which is something that Air Force space strategist Peter Garretson believes should be changed.
Speaking to Politico, Gatterson, who studies planetary defenses, said: “No one is tasked with mitigation. Congress did put in law that the White House identify who should be responsible, but fully four subsequent administrations so far have blown off their request.”
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Gatterson’s concerns were backed up in the piece by senator Gary Peters who is a member of the Armed Services and Commerce Committee and a leading advocate for great preparations for an asteroid strike.
Peters believes that being hit by a meteor is one of the “unique threats to national security and that the US government should be doing more “to bolster federal planetary defense efforts.”
President of the B612 Foundation, Danica Remy, who is constructing a database to track near-Earth objects, echoed these concerns: “There are three million asteroids and we have not a freaking clue where they are and they are flying around us. We’ve barely made a dent.”
This debate has been sparked after nations like China and Japan have already begun to develop their own defense strategy for such a possibility, however, Thomas Jones, a planetary scientist and former astronaut believes it should be a collective effort. He said: “It is not a space race. We can put together an international response. That’s the way to do this.” He also warned of “disinformation and rivalries and wasted resources.”
While the US military’s “Space Force”, established during the Trump administration, has begun to develop “space domain awareness,” NASA has also started work on the first-ever planetary defense test, also known as DART, which they are aiming to test on the asteroid Dimorphos.
According to NASA: “DART is a spacecraft designed to impact an asteroid as a test of technology. DART’s target asteroid is NOT a threat to Earth. This asteroid system is a perfect testing ground to see if intentionally crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid is an effective way to change its course, should an Earth-threatening asteroid be discovered in the future.
“While no known asteroid larger than 140 meters in size has a significant chance to hit Earth for the next 100 years, only about 40 per cent of those asteroids have been found as of October 2021.”