In a story from SpaceDaily/Sputnik News, it’s fully apparent that under our current ability to detect incoming asteroid or comet impactor we may never have any warning.
“Because there may be media coverage tomorrow, I’m alerting you that in about 30 mins a 57-130 meter sized asteroid will pass Earth at only 0.19 lunar distances (48,000 miles)”, wrote Lindley Johnson, NASA’s planetary defence officer on 24 July.Sputnik News, September 21, 2019
In the 21st Century, when we know what these things can do, and how devastating they have been on a global scale, we still can’t do any better?
As for stopping them? We have ideas, but almost no practical knowledge of things we can do. That’s alarming to an outsized degree, if you really think about it.
I really try to resist being an alarmist, because I don’t think that the purpose of being a human being is to be scared all the time. We’re not lower animals scurrying around in fear of being some predator’s meal. In fact, in most environments, we’re the apex predator if that’s the goal we set for ourselves at any given time. We have big, complex brains, capable of abstract thought and blessed with the opportunities for leisure and internal self-improvement because for most of our lives, we’re able to keep predators at bay. It’s a nice setup we have.
We’re wasting it, of course, this blessing. If we’re taken out by a space rock or a giant snowball, we really have ourselves to blame.
As much as I see the Outbound mission as space exploration and exploitation for human improvement, I am more and more convinced that the main need we have is for planetary defense. There several things we can do:
- Get Off-World and spread humanity around the Solar System.
- Shield ourselves (Terrestrially and Off-World) from Solar events.
- Devise means of detecting AND mitigating inbound Impactors.
Strategy 1 is helpful in dealing with most anything that threatens our species, insomuch that it just removes us from the equation. If something horrible and cataclysmic happens to the Earth, we are somewhat protected by having at least some of us located elsewhere. Certainly, that’s of little help to those remaining behind on the Homeworld, other than perhaps the Off-Worlders coming down to help after an event.
Strategy 2 is good because we may be able to preserve humanity on Earth. Of course, that does little to help guard against impact events. That’s where Strategy 3 must come into play.
More effort needs to be expended on stopping the space rocks, and I think the very first goal is to get better at detecting them in the first place.