Would Earth survive a devastating asteroid impact?

Dinosaurs didn’t know physics or have a planetary defense program. But we do

The Netflix movie “Don’t Look Up” provided a nightmare scenario where a comet, 5 kilometers wide, collides with the Earth, wiping out everything that lives and breathes — including humans.

This scenario has already happened 65 million years ago when an asteroid, 10 kilometers wide, crashed into the Earth and sparked a global winter that killed the dinosaurs.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches with the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, spacecraft onboard, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021, from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. NASA launched the spacecraft on the DART mission to smash into an asteroid and test whether it would be possible to knock a speeding space rock off course if one were to threaten Earth. NASA, Associated Press

But do we have the resources and technology to avert such a disaster? A new paper looked into the technical aspects.

“We show that humanity has crossed a technological threshold to prevent us from ‘going the way of the dinosaurs.’” wrote Philip Lubin and Alex Cohen, researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara, in a recent study.“We show that mitigation is conceivable using existing technology, even with the short time scale of six months warning.”
  • They added that dinosaurs “never took a physics class and failed to fund planetary defense.”

According to SciTechDaily, the researchers also concluded that the most effective method of pulverizing is by using a small nuclear explosive. NASA’s Space Launch System or SpaceX’s Starship is technologically sufficient enough to mitigate the existential threat and change the object’s velocity.

Advancements in monitoring also create a sense of safety.

  • “Two decades ago, only a handful of the potential species-ending kilometer-sized asteroids had been cataloged and their orbits through the solar system carefully measured,” said Brad Gibson, director of the E A Milne Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Hull in the U.K., per The National News.
  • “As of today, essentially 100 percent of these extreme asteroids (roughly 1,000 of them) are now covered, and we are in no danger from any of these, at least for several centuries,” he said.
  • But there are undiscovered objects still out there, best observed from the Southern hemisphere.
  • “There are too many blind spots. We need dedicated space-based observatories which can provide us with a 360-degree view of objects potentially targeting the earth,” said Dimitra Atri, a research scientist at the NYU Abu Dhabi Centre for Space Science.