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Giant Asteroid Could Hit Earth in 2032 – Time for the World to Work Together Now

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aster 1 getty
News that a huge asteroid could hit the earth in 2032 got me thinking: will we be able to stop this kind of thing? Doing a little research, the answer is a resounding “No.” This massive rock (dubbed 2013 TV135) went past us last month, and not a hair on our heads was disturbed; however, it was at a distance of 4.2 million miles (6.7 million kilometers) away, so a bad hair day was nothing to worry about, at least not yet.

The asteroid was spotted by Ukranian astronomers only ten days ago, and the asteroid had passed us on September 16, so we had a close encounter and didn’t even know it. The return of 2013 TV135 will be perhaps closer, but experts estimate that there is a 1 in 63,000 chance of it hitting the earth. Don Yeomans, of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office, said that the current projection means about a “99.998% of no contact” with the asteroid in 2032. I guess we can breathe a sigh of relief, but I wouldn’t get too comfortable.

Let’s think about the implications of this story. The Ukranians noticed the asteroid “ten days” after it had already passed, which scares me more than anything. In other words, we had this gigantic piece of space rock hurtling towards us and passing through the neighborhood, and we didn’t even know it was out there. How many more really big ones (maybe like the one that hit in Siberia in 1908?) are out there that we do not know about yet? Maybe Mr. Yeomans and his group need to be a little more vigilant.

The salient point is that even if we knew that good old 2013 TV135 were heading directly for us, there is nothing we can do right now. Supposedly the United States and Russia have been in talks about nuclear options of stopping an asteroid. The Russians have a vested interest in this since earlier this year an asteroid exploded there injuring over a thousand people. No one saw that one coming either.

space gettyCharles Bolden, the chief of NASA, during a meeting  with The House Science Committee, was asked if a big rock were coming directly towards us and would hit us in a few weeks what could we do? He told them to “Pray.” This is, of course, due to a fact that Bolden made clear to the representatives; when NASA asked for funds for this kind of thing they never materialized.

My feeling is this is a bigger and much more serious issue than NASA and Congress can handle. Okay, so the Russians have been talking about nukes with the U.S., but there is something frightening about that too. Right now we have no capability of delivering the nukes to get the giant rock before it enters our atmosphere, and by then it could cause complications with worldwide implications if we took it out with nukes, one terrible scenario being replaced by another.

All the countries of the world have a vested interest in this. If we all pulled together, kind of like in the movie Independence Day, then maybe we could defeat this alien rogue as well as in the film. A rock from space is just as dangerous, probably much more so, than any little green men and women from another galaxy. We can all pool our resources and create something substantial, perhaps a United Nations Space Defense Force, and construct some kind of space stations strategically positioned in orbit and equipped to take out asteroids. Yes, I know this will take time and great effort, but we should actually take this threat as seriously as we do hurricanes and earthquakes.

aster 2 NASATo scare you a bit more, Bolden noted that there are approximately “9,600 near earth objects” that NASA is currently tracking, many of them 60% larger than 300 kilometers. The one that exploded over Russia earlier this year was just 17 kilometers wide, so magnify that and imagine one of these huge rocks dropping in a major city or even in the middle of the Pacific, and the impact on earth would be catastrophic.

There is so much that divides us in the world, but one thing we can all agree on is preservation of our planet. The threat of an asteroid hitting us may seem remote, but tell that to the dinosaurs. Yes, a big rock like that is said to only hit once every 20,000 years, but the experts could be wrong. It is time to face the situation and use it to bring the people of the world together. While I deeply respect prayer, that is not going to stop a 400 kilometer asteroid from wiping out everything.

Of course, in our politically challenging times it would be hard to expect Congress to do much of anything. We saw that we recently went to the brink of financial ruin. If our people in Congress can barely agree on fiscal responsibility, how can we expect them to worry about what’s coming from space?

We need to rally key and influential members of the world community to begin an exploration of how we can fund a realistic (and relatively fast) defense of the planet from these asteroids; otherwise, annhilation from the devastating impact of a large space rock could be a real possibility. In that scenario we won’t be sent back to the Stone Age but into oblivion, and all the praying in the world won’t be able to stop it.

Photo credits: asteroid and Bolden-Getty Images; space map-NASA

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charlie Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.
  • bliffle

    Since the people of the earth are incapable of gathering together to halt the destruction of the earths waters and atmosphere, it is unlikely they can stop a mere meteor.

    Kiss your *ss goodbye!

  • Deano

    Nice article Victor but you have a scale problem – the Chelyabinsk meteor was only 17-20 metres in size, not 17 km as noted in your article. On a side note, it detonated about 23 km up, with an energy release estimated at roughly 440 kilotonnes (approx. 20x Hiroshima A-bomb).

    It has been estimated that a 1,000 metre rock would release 46,300 Megatonnes and blast a crater 13.6 km wide. A 17 km rock would probably have been an extinction or near-extinction event, as the one theorized to have resulted in severe climate change and wiped out the dinosaurs. It was thought to be 10- 15 km in diameter.
    Cheerful news eh?

  • Rob Knaggs

    Blowing up a doomsday asteroid with nukes would be a terrible idea, not least because to vaporize even a modestly-sized one would take most of the world’s nuclear arsenals. And you’d HAVE to vaporize it. Just blowing it to smithereens would do no good, because all that would happen is that the smithereens would continue on their merry way to Earth intercept with exactly the same mass, only now in dozens or hundreds of (highly radioactive) pieces instead of just one.

    The best way to avoid an impact would be to attach a few rocket motors to the surface of the asteroid and then fire them up. This would generate just enough thrust to nudge the beast off its collision course.

    The only problem with the nudging technique is that you would need to know about the impact years in advance: enough time to devise and prepare your mission, get the rockets to the asteroid, install them and light them up. As a number of recent encounters including the two Victor mentions have demonstrated, not all trans-Earth objects are so obliging.

    With more notice you might be able to achieve the same result with ground or space-based lasers. Even light exerts pressure, and applied long and intensely enough you could change the asteroid’s orbit that way. Unfortunately such a technology doesn’t exist yet.

    The good news is that the Solar System is old enough for most of the really big, nasty objects to have either already gone splat, or been nudged into their own independent orbits where they can’t bother anyone else. But not all, as the Chixchulub impact, a blink of an eye ago in cosmic terms, bears witness.

  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    Chillingly, that time frame intersects with the projected Second Coming of Christ in 20 centuries. I am interested in the idea of altering the course of the gigantic rock. Perhaps, we could strategically locate space stations around the moon in order to watch these objects and shoot them down or alter their course. The Star Wars Project had applications in this area but the practical problem is what to do with the many thousands of scattering rock fragments. Cost and the international consensus for doing something is yet another practical implementation issue.