Could our planet be in trouble if a comet heads in our direction? One NASA scientist believes this may be the case, but a lot of factors will come into play.
Dr. Joseph Nuth, a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, made his opinion known while speaking at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union earlier this month. He noted that while dangerous asteroids and comets are extremely rare, this does not mean that Earth is completely immune to a hit. He cited the extinction of the dinosaurs when he presented his points.
“You could say … we’re due, but it’s a random course,” Nuth said.
He went on to state that the problem isn’t just the comets and asteroids themselves. Instead, we should be more worried about the fact that we do not have a plan in place to handle these threats.
“There’s not a hell of a lot we can do about it at the moment,” Nuth continued.
He went on to say that not all hope is lost. NASA could potentially create two advanced craft to blow up any hazardous objects heading toward Earth. The goal would be to reduce the government’s “response time” from five years to less than 12 months.
“The recommendation is for anyone who will listen,” Nuth said. “I’m a NASA scientist. I’m not a NASA policymaker. I’m not even in the administration of NASA.”
He specified that Congressional approval may be a large obstacle in terms of executing his proposed plan, but what could else could hurt – or help – scientists’ efforts to ensure our planet’s safety?
Space Funding for the Future
Under the Obama administration, it hasn’t always been easy-going for NASA. The 2011 budget hindered the Constellation program, which was dedicated to building a new Orion spacecraft and Ares rockets.
“To people who are working on these programs, this is like a death in the family NASA chief Charles Bolden said in 2010. “Everybody needs to understand that and we need to give them time to grieve and then we need to give them time to recover.”
Since then, space experts have lost faith in government support – figuratively and literally – but that may change in the coming months. President-elect Donald Trump’s appointed space policy advisor has stressed the need for NASA to focus on more deep space activities in the future.
Grush, Loren. “Trump’s NASA looks good for human space exploration and terrible for Earth science.” The Verge. Published November 23, 2016.
Malik, Tariq. “Obama Budget Scraps NASA Moon Plan for ’21st Century Space Program.’” Space.com. Published February 1, 2010.
Malik, Tariq. “NASA Grieves Over Canceled Program.” NBC News. Published February 2, 2010.
Meyer, Robinson. “Earth Is Probably Unprepared for a Comet Strike.” The Atlantic. Published Dec. 14, 2016.