Trail left behind by Russian meteor on Feb. 15. Image: Uragan. TT/Wikimedia

Efforts to Protect Earth From Asteroids Are Under Way. But Will It Be Enough?

BY ADAM MANN
02.22.136:30 AM

In the wake of Earth’s largest meteor strike in more than a century, the world’s attention has turned skyward.

The 17-meter bolide exploded in the air over the Chelyabinsk region of Russia on Feb. 15, shattering windows and injuring around 1,000 people. But had the meteor come in at a slightly different angle, the space rock could have impacted the ground and the fallout could have been much worse.

More money is already flowing toward future asteroid detection and mitigation strategies, but we may never be able to fully protect ourselves.

There are plenty of programs already in place for monitoring relatively large near-Earth objects, and more will be coming online soon, both from government space agencies and the private sector. However, even the best efforts will not be able to catch objects the size of the Chelyabinsk meteor — rocks that are small enough to evade detection by current technology until they are streaking through Earth’s atmosphere, but large enough to be dangerous.

The technology to actually stop any killer asteroids that we do manage to detect is also far in the future. Many techniques have been proposed, including using nuclear missiles, laser beams, or even spray paint, but none are proven or anywhere near becoming reality. A lot more research and development as well as an unprecedented international effort will be needed before we can even begin to be protected.

But we’re working on it.

Read more: Efforts to Protect Earth From Asteroids Are Under Way. But Will It Be Enough? | Wired Science | Wired.com.

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