If Earth is ever in danger from an asteroid, would we be able to stop it? In a new video from Vice, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and members of NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) think we’ll be able to do it.
The next big concern for Earth is the Apophis asteroid, which has a 1 in 250,000 chance of hitting Earth in April 2036. Seven other asteroids that are much further away than Apophis have a greater chance of hitting Earth.
“It’s a statistical certainty that one day the Earth will get hit by a large asteroid, whether that’s in 50 years or 100 million years,” NEEMO principal investigator Mike Gernhardt said in the video.
NASA’s NEEMO unit is already at work trying to figure out how humans would explore asteroids. If we can launch astronauts into deep space and explore asteroids, we’ll get a better idea of how we can defend the planet from them by understanding their composition.
Gernhardt says the two most likely options for defending Earth would be finding a way to shift an asteroid’s course or to break the asteroid into smaller pieces.
“We don’t really know the right answer for that, but the more we know about asteroids, the better informed we’ll be to defend the Earth against an asteroid hit in the future,” Gernhardt said.
While the video doesn’t mention it, the company Planetary Resources has plans to mine asteroids near Earth. If successful, the company could potentially be part of Earth’s defense against asteroids.