NASA scientists have concluded that even an atomic bomb cannot stop a giant asteroid from destroying a huge chunk of earth.
In a simulated exercise, U.S. and European scientists were told they had six months to devise a life-saving plan to prevent a massive rock from hitting the earth that was discovered 35 million miles away.
The study was conducted over a four-day period from April 26-29. Astronomers used radar systems, data imaging, and other technologies like the world’s largest telescope.
Scientists found that six months were not enough to prepare a spaceship to hit the asteroid, and that an atomic bomb – as in the movie Armageddon – would not destroy the monster room stone.
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An asteroid with the power of a massive atomic bomb could destroy much of Europe if it falls to Earth, but a new simulation shows that there is nothing we can do to stop it. NASA held a table exercise last week to better understand our space prevention against potential space rocks threatening our very existence
The exercise, titled “Space Mission Options for the Hypothetical Asteroid Impact Scenario,” involved nine NASA scientists who spent four days studying how such an event would develop over six months as if it were a real emergency.
day one the simulation – April 19, 2021:
The asteroid, named 2021PDC, was discovered as part of the near-earth object survey project carried out by the University of Hawaii for NASA’s Planetary Defense Program.
The simulated asteroid was 35 million miles away, and at that point had only a five percent chance of hitting Earth on October 20th.
SECOND day of simulation – May 2, 2021:
Astronomers analyzed the data collected to refine the 2021PDC’s orbit and impact probability.
The team used imagery collected in 2014 from the asteroid’s earlier approach to Earth.
It took three months for scientists to determine that the asteroid had a 100% probability of its expected impact region, which was in Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia.
These data allowed astronomers to reduce the uncertainties in the orbit and to conclude that the simulated asteroid had a 100 percent chance of hitting Earth in Europe or North Africa.
At that point, the team was quickly working on how to prevent 2021PDC from affecting Earth.
Space mission designers attempted to disrupt the asteroid before impact, but concluded that the short span of time “did not allow for a credible space mission given the current state of the art,” participants said.
Scientists also suggested destroying the asteroid, which would be an obvious attack to many, but the team found hidden obstacles.
Pictured is a map of potential impact locations from 2021 PDC that scientists created to encourage interdisciplinary discussions about planetary defense. It took 184 days to determine the region of impact and the probability that the asteroid would hit our planet
Simulations showed that if a core device came into contact, the space rock could be reduced to a less destructive size.
The simulation found that 2021PDC could be between 114 feet and a half mile tall, and it’s not clear if a giant bomb could knock the asteroid down.
Day THREE simulations – June 30, 2021:
The exercise jumped as the world prepared for impact.
With the largest telescopes in the world, astronomers around the globe continued to track PDC every night in 2021.
In doing so, they refined the asteroid’s orbit and significantly narrowed its expected region of impact to Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia.
The final day of the hypothetical asteroid impact exercise, Day 4, was quickly fast forwarded to October 14th – just six days before impact. The failure of the exercise lies in our inability to send a spaceship to the asteroid months before impact
Day FOUR of the simulation – October 14, 2021:
Just six days before impact. 2021PDC was now an estimated 3.9 million miles from Earth, which was close enough for Goldstone Solar System Radar 2021PDC to detect and analyze and significantly refine the asteroid’s size and physical properties.
This showed that the asteroid was much smaller than previously thought, reducing the expected area of damage from the impact.
At that point, astronomers were able to narrow the impact region so that it was centered near the border between Germany, the Czech Republic, and Austria, and determined that the asteroid had a 99 percent probability of impact within that region.
Lindley Johnson, NASA’s Planetary Defense Officer, said, “Every time we participate in an exercise of this type, we learn more about who are the key players in a disaster event and who needs to know what information.”
The joint exercises between NASA and FEMA were attended by representatives from several other federal agencies, including the ministries of defense and state. Pictured are scientists who performed simulations as if it were a real emergency
“These exercises ultimately help the planetary defense community communicate with each other and with our governments to ensure that we are all coordinated should a potential future impact threat be identified.”
NASA participated in seven impact scenarios – four at previous planetary defense conferences (2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019) and three in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The joint exercises between NASA and FEMA were attended by representatives from several other federal agencies, including the ministries of defense and state.
Dr. Paul Chodas, director of CNEOS, said, “Hypothetical asteroid impact exercises give us a chance to think about how we would react if a sizable asteroid was found to have a significant chance of affecting our planet.”
“Details of the scenario – such as the probability of the asteroid impact, where and when the impact could occur – will be communicated to the participants on the conference days in a series of steps in order to simulate how a real situation could develop.”