Asteroid Collision And Armageddon: What Is NASA Doing About It?

First Posted: Dec 02, 2016 03:50 AM EST

NASA formalized its ongoing program on the detection, monitoring of near-Earth Objects (NEOs) and prediction of a possible "Armageddon" caused due to asteroid collision with Earth.

NASA began its surveys on NEOs in 1998. But recently, the program was officially established as Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) under the Planetary Science Division, in the NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

As per the news reports published by NASA, around 13,500 NEOs were detected since the initiation of the survey, and approximately 1,500 more are getting detected every year. The astronomers working under this program use ground-based telescopes and the NEOWISE infrared telescope of NASA to detect and track near-Earth Objects. The Center for NEO Studies (CNEOS) monitors the orbit of the detected NEOs and the Minor Planet Center maintains the tracking data in a global database for future reference.

In addition, the PDCO is authorized to issue notices regarding close asteroid passage and warnings in case of any suspected asteroid collision events. One such warning was issued in 2008, when a NEO, about few meters in size, was predicted to impact Earth, somewhere in the middle of the Sudan desert the very next day. The notification was sent to the White House for then President of the USA, George W. Bush.

Lieutenant Colonel Lindley Johnson is the founding head of the PDCO and carries the huge responsibility of being the Planetary Defense Officer. In an interview, recently published in Bloomberg, Johnson quoted, "Every Day is Asteroid Day."

Answering a question on usage of nukes in prevention of asteroid collision, he added that the use of nukes to destroy such asteroids in space, as shown in the Armageddon movie, is purely sci-fi and is practically impossible. Finding and identifying such asteroids in advance, like several years in advance may give us the chance to send a spacecraft and modify the velocity and hopefully the impact trajectory of the asteroid.

However, under the present circumstances, even NASA cannot confirm when and how the Armageddon will occur. The least people can do is to prepare themselves either to prevent or make strategies to survive such asteroid collisions.

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