US space entity NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and its peers across the world held a “table-top” exercise to assess how long it will take scientists to understand and discover strategies to avoid a catastrophic collision with an incoming asteroid into the earth.
The simulation was purely hypothetical, to give scientists enough time to prepare for such scenarios if they should emerge. They set the scenario: a strange asteroid approaching earth from a distance of around 35 million miles (56.3 million kilometers) is expected to strike the globe in six months.
Scientists met together for a week beginning April 26 to plan ways to stop or change the direction of the hypothetical asteroid, named 2021 PDC.
The participants were provided information about the asteroid every day, which represented a month in the exercise timeline. The asteroid’s size was estimated to be between 35 and 700 meters. The scientists began accumulating information with each passing hour.
Finally, on the second day, they confirmed that the asteroid will strike in six months across a large region that covers Europe and Northern Africa. By the end of the week, they had determined that the asteroid would hit somewhere between Germany and the Czech Republic.
The scientists later concluded that there was currently no technology available to prevent the world from being wiped out by a huge asteroid. They stated that deflecting the asteroid will take more than six months.
The scientists said in a statement that if presented with the hypothetical scenario in real life “we would not be able to launch any spacecraft on such short notice with current capabilities.”
They also added that, even in the lack of a clear understanding of asteroid properties, using a nuclear explosive device to disrupt the asteroid may reduce the chance of damage. However, the ability of typical nuclear explosive devices to disrupt near-earth objects may be insufficient for larger asteroids.
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