by Graham Pierrepoint
Despite millennia of evolution and the building of society, industry and technology over hundreds of years, it’s still humbling and rather scary to think that our planet is still very much a sensitive rock hurtling through space – one that could be subject to wanton disaster and destruction at any given time. Theorists have made many predictions as to when life on Earth will come to an end – will we find ourselves engulfed by the Sun? Will an asteroid impact, potentially wiping out life by the millions? Or will we bring about our demise all by ourselves? It doesn’t really bear thinking about – yet, someday, our descendants may have to face such a doomsday head-on.
Perhaps worryingly, it has been established this week by John Holden – director of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy – that our planet may not necessarily be as impervious, nor as ready, for the threat of an asteroid attack as many may have originally assumed. While we have experienced hundreds and thousands of misses from hurtling rocks in the past, the fear of the wrong satellite of the wrong size impacting the planet still sets many people on edge. Holdren states that while considerable money and technology is being put in place to combat such natural disaster, much more research will be needed in order for humanity to be adequately prepared for any asteroid-related threats in future.
He continues to state that we are on the ‘right trajectory’, and anyone fearing humanity being wiped out by an asteroid in the near future can rest easy – as not only are the chances of Earth being struck by such an impervious asteroid extremely unlikely, but there is already a mission due to launch at the start of the next decade to help prepare us for any eventuality.
NASA’s future Asteroid Redirect Mission, or ARM, is due to launch in late 2021 and will see a number of potential asteroid deterrents tested against rocks, allowing for scientists and engineers to gain a greater understanding of what it may take to ensure that our planet is safe from any particularly aggressive debris. While the words of John Holdren may not inspire many to believe that we are 100% safe against the forces of nature, it should hopefully come as a relief to understand that action is being taken to ensure that we can defend ourselves in the distant future.