Here’s hoping the scientists did their sums right

2012 DA14

A portion of the graphic in today’s WSJ.

I’d hate to find out they were a bit off, in the wrong direction.

There was a graphic this morning in The Wall Street Journal blithely informing me that an asteroid is going to pass very close to the Earth on Feb. 15. How close? Like, way, way closer than the moon (less than 10 percent of that distance). In fact, closer than some of our geosynchronous satellites. In fact, it may even take out a satellite or two.

Oh, and get this — this 45-meter-wide, 130,000-metric-ton chunk of trouble passes by the Earth about once a year. And… it’s passing close enough to us this time that its path is likely to be changed significantly by our gravity. Which means, who knows how close or how far it will be in the future.

If it did hit us someday, it would mean a collision packing the energy of 120 Hiroshima bombs. Of course, a bigger asteroid would be worse. 2012 DA14 is actually one of the “smallest of known asteroids,” according to the graphic in the paper this morning.

I think it’s really time we got serious again about manned space flight, don’t you?

4 thoughts on “Here’s hoping the scientists did their sums right

  1. tavis micklash

    Landing on an asteroid or comet is on NASA plate.

    From memory I believe they either have a probe or there is one in route to send an unmanned lander to an asteroid.

    Near Earth Objects are tracked very close and cataloged.

    I have no problem with pursuing this as this leads to military and civilian advances that can be used in the private sector. A lot of stuff has come out of space travel.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      That was understatement on my part. That would of course be the first step on a long ladder of things we’d have to do in order to get ourselves out of the way of a BIG asteroid, of the sort that could destroy all life on Earth.

      First, we’d have to develop interplanetary travel.

      Then, interstellar travel, since there are no other human-hospitable planets in this system.

      Then, we’d have to develop massive ships that are capable not only of interstellar travel, but of sustaining billions of humans for the duration of the trip — interstellar “arks,” if you well. And try not to get stuck on the “B Ark.”

      Then, of course, there’s plan B — get really good at blowing up/deflecting asteroids headed our way…

      But it seems humanity’s best prospects for long-term survival beyond a cataclysmic event would be to have ourselves scattered across a number of people-friendly planets. And if we’re to hope to be able to do that in the next few centuries, we kinda need to get started…

      Reply

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