A group of planetary scientists and former astronauts struggling to save the world from the impacts of catastrophic asteroids claim that there is a large gap in our defense strategy and "we will be reached."
Millions of asteroids in a possible course of collision with the Earth are going unnoticed and could end humanity at any time, according to experts.
The B612 Foundation is a non-profit organization based in the United States formed by former astronauts, scientists, mission planners and others who focus on protecting Earth from the catastrophic asteroid impacts.
The organization is led by former astronauts Ed Lu and Rusty Schweickart and collaborates with leading international institutions in research, science and technology projects related to planetary defense. But it is such a gigantic task that the Earth is currently open to be reached by an asteroid without us even knowing its arrival.
NASA was directed by Congress in 2005 to find 90 percent of the asteroids that were at least 140 m in diameter and since then has determined that, of those that have been observed so far, none represents an immediate threat . But of the millions of asteroids in the 15-140m range estimated to be "close to Earth," only about 18,000 of them are being tracked globally, most are not even located, monitored or cataloged.
So while humanity can deflect the incoming asteroid by bombarding it, using laser beams to vaporize it, sending a space "tractor" to drag it out of its course, or beating it in a new direction, none of that will work if we do not detect the threat for the first time.
The president of B612 Danica Remy, who also directs the program of the Asteroid Institute of the organization, said news.com.au that while there are several operational telescopes around the world that can detect asteroids in trajectories to Earth, only a small number of them can.
"The field of view of telescopes is very small and the sky is very large," Remy said.
"Currently we can determine in advance if one of the 18,000 asteroids we have observed will hit us, but we would only know if one of the 1 million we have not observed is on a trajectory for Earth if a terrestrial telescope observed it.
"It could be chosen, but it is more likely that it is not and that we first find out at the moment of impact. . "
The tools and resources needed to detect and track all near-Earth asteroids are so costly and extensive that it would take them decades to reach them, but according to Ms. Remy, it is a goal worth working for. having systems for planetary defense is likely to determine the fate of humanity.
"It is 100% sure that we will be reached, but we are not 100 percent safe when," he said.  A meteor shot through the sky in the Russian region of Chelyabinsk, causing explosions and injuring hundreds of people in 2013. Photo / AP "src =" data: image / png; base64, R0lGODlhAQABAPAAAOrq6v /// yH5BAAAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAICRAEAOw == "data-srcset =" // www.nzherald .co.nz / resizer / wJamBis5uFCZpL_xgRlMIhB6c_I = / 320×176 / smart / filters: quality (70) /arc-anglerfish-syd-prod-nzme.s3.amazonaws.com/public/JLSKWUWHGVC35HNH37KEDSQQP4.jpg 320w, // www.nzherald. co.nz/resizer/DOo5ZneUJm2MN7vG7yv5KCsD-54=/375×206/smart/filters:quality(70)/arc -anglerfish-syd-prod-nzme.s3.amazonaws.com/public/JLSKWUWHGVC35HNH37KEDSQQP4.jpg 375w, // www.nzherald.co.nz/resizer/Y8bUjc1sv5biJ0DF5zVflVJmvSM=/620×340/smart/filters:quality(70)/arc- anglerfish-syd-prod-nzme.s3.amazonaws.com/public/JLSKWUWHGVC35HNH37KEDSQQP4.jpg 620w "/>
According to Ms. Remy, the first step to be able to track all near-Earth asteroids and then divert the dangerous ones from impacting our planet is "increase our discovery rate".
"Right now" We are slow in our discoveries: the world detects around 1000 asteroids per year and we want to accelerate that discovery rate to 100,000 per year, but we do not have the space instruments or telescopes to do that, "he said. 19659003] "We need to find them before they find us." [1 9659003] & # 39; POTENTIALLY DEVASTATING CONSEQUENCES & # 39;
Throughout its 4.5 billion-year history, Earth has been hit repeatedly by space rocks that they have caused anything from a harmless splash in the ocean to the annihilation of species.When the next big impact will be, nobody knows, but the pressure to predict and intercept their arrival is due to "potentially devastating consequences".
We just have to look back in history to see evidence of this, "said Ms. Remy.
In 2013, an asteroid exploded near the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in 19m and liberated more than 30 times the kinetic energy of the Hiroshima bomb.
The resulting blast flew the windows of nearly 5,000 buildings and injured more than 1,200 people.
"There was no warning time for that asteroid … the world discovered it when it hit," Remy said.
In 1908, an asteroid hit Siberia, destroying an area the size of metropolitan London.
The explosion crushed some 80 million trees in 2000 square kilometers sparsely populated.
"And then there's the 10-km asteroid that killed the dinosaurs and 70 percent of the existing species almost 66 million years ago," Remy said.
But near Earth objects that buzz on or towards Earth are anything But the weird
Minor Planet Center, which operates under the International Astronomical Union as the official world organization in charge of collecting observational data for asteroids , has recorded 133 "near-Earth objects discovered" only this month. But that's just the tip of the iceberg, according to Mrs. Remy.
"We just had one that happened between Earth and the Moon last week," he said.
"There are millions of them, we can only most of them are happening."
"We receive blows a couple of times a year for a significant impact."
The B612 Foundation is currently exploring several options to achieve its objectives of mapping all objects close to Earth and track them, but it is not the only organization in the case.
In 2013, the General Assembly of the United Nations recommended tasks for a technical subgroup of science of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) to coordinate the international response to an impact threat from near-Earth objects, the establishment of an international asteroid warning network (IAWN), and a Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG)
"The warning group works to get a close up on a potentially dangerous asteroid that reaches Earth," Remy said.
"We are seeing how synthetic tracking technology in a space-based mission could complement other telescopes by finding and tracking the large component of asteroids that will be lost by ground-based telescopes – including large synoptic telescopes (LSST) – and the infrared telescopes like the NEOCam proposed by NASA ".
The LSST, currently under construction, will examine the sky for 10 years for various scientific applications, including the search for dangerous asteroids. It is expected to start operating in 2023.
"It will deliver an unprecedented amount of new asteroid data when the roof is opened and starts taking sky inventories," he said.
"It will not work, they give us millions of observations of asteroids, but it will dwarf the current number we have of 18,000."
THE GRAVITY TRACTOR
Humankind has carried out successful missions where probes have been found with distant asteroids in deep space, including NASA's Dawn spacecraft orbiting the large space rock Vesta. In 2005, the Japanese probe Hayabusa even tore off some pieces of the asteroid Itokawa, sending them to Earth for analysis.
But it's the "gravitational tractor" that many researchers, including those associated with the B612 Foundation, may be the best option to divert dangerous asteroids on a trajectory to Earth.
As long as there is a significant warning period, the robotic probe could be sent into space, reunite and travel along with the asteroid.
The modest gravity of the spacecraft exert a pull on the asteroid as the two cross the space together. For months or years, this "gravity tractor" method would drag the asteroid into a different, more benign orbit.
"With an advanced warning, you only have to move an asteroid a quarter of an inch to place it in a different orbit." Mrs. Remy said.
"The problem is that the gravity tractor has not been tested.
" Everyone believes that physics will work. What the organization has done over the years is to advocate that the world, in the name of humanity, needs to understand how to divert asteroids.
"But more funding is needed to take it to the stage it was launched."
According to Mrs. Remy, if the catastrophic asteroids impact or not on Earth in the future, "it is in our power".
"Their orbits allow us to predict years of imminent impact to divert the asteroids from their course," he said. .
"What is really more important is that we need a complete map showing the location, characteristics and routes of all these asteroids so that we can defend ourselves.
" The asteroids do not care where they hit. It could be Australia, Japan or Columbus Ohio.
"It's really a global problem."