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NASA is simulating an asteroid aimed at Earth, and there is bad news for us



In movies, games, or TV shows where there is an asteroid aimed at Earth, the news is always shocking. Depending on the specifics of the story, the population of the planet may have from a few days to several months to prepare for the inevitable. Things always seem bleak, but more often than not, humanity manages to pull a rabbit out of its hat and come up with a plan that saves billions of lives. But this is a fabrication, and although humanity has some pretty spectacular technology, chances are we won̵

7;t be as lucky as our fictional counterparts. In fact, a recent simulation experiment conducted by NASA more or less proves that an asteroid that is heading for Earth will doom, even if we had six months to prepare for it.

During the annual planetary defense conference, scientists from a number of space agencies participated in a simulated emergency response scenario in which a fictional asteroid called 2021 PDC was connected to Earth. Scientists have decided that they have six months to plan, and as the days and months go by, the future begins to look incredibly bleak.

When new information began to arrive, it became clear that the asteroid was about to affect Europe. But tracking the asteroid’s path was only part of the task. The real test was to simulate an answer that would save lives. Participants considered many options, including attempts to push the asteroid off course, but it was already too close to Earth to be effective. In addition, the scientist decided that “the force requires the displacement of the fictional asteroid 2021 PDC from a course of collision with the Earth is so gloomy that it risks breaking the asteroid – perhaps creating many large fragments that could affect the Earth.”

Scientists are also considering using nuclear explosives to destroy, or at least seriously reduce, the likelihood that any major impact element could pass through the Earth’s atmosphere. Unfortunately, the team was faced with the reality that “international law precludes the use of nuclear weapons in space”, which means that they could not have done so much with such a short notice.

“The Space Mission Planning and Consulting Group (SMPAG) has concluded that space missions to the fictional asteroid 2021 PDC cannot be launched in time to deflect or disrupt it,” the ESA said in a chronicle of the exercise.

The fictional asteroid hit the Czech Republic near its border with Germany and Austria. The latest report before the impact narrowed the impact location to 23 kilometers and the impact time to one second. The asteroid, which was only about 100 meters in diameter, caused serious damage to an area up to 300 kilometers in diameter, with damage increasing as you approached the impact site.

This, of course, was only a simulation, so it is impossible to say how accurate the world’s reaction would be in six months compared to a few days during the conference. If the nuclear response was supported by scientists and seems to work, you have to imagine that international laws preventing their use will be eased and humanity will do whatever it takes to prevent such an event. At least that’s the hope.

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See the original version of this article on BGR.com


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