With a raging COVID-19 pandemic, the last thing anyone wants to think about is another possible way the world could come crumbling down. For researchers in China’s National Space Science Center, that is exactly what they focusing on, reported Yahoo News.
- Their concern: “Armageddon” by an asteroid, reported Reuters.
Chinese researchers want to practice turning a sizable asteroid away from the Earth using a fleet of rockets, reported The Daily Mail. This plan could be essential to saving humanity if a large enough asteroid is on a collision course for our planet.
What is China’s plan to prevent an asteroid from causing Armageddon?
Chinese researchers have a plan to launch 23 of China’s Long March 5 rockets that will simultaneously hit the asteroid and push it 5,592 miles off course, said The Daily Mail. The diversion would knock the asteroid off course by 1.4 times the Earth’s radius, successfully avoiding a collision.
- These rockets will travel for three years before hitting the asteroid, reported Yahoo News.
- China’s plan will only require a decade’s warning in order to prepare and launch the rockets in time to prevent a collision, per Yahoo News.
According to Professor Alan Fitzsimmons of the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s University Belfast:
- “The proposal of keeping the upper stage of the launch rocket to a guiding spacecraft, making one large ‘kinetic impactor’ to deflect an asteroid, is a rather nice concept,” per Reuters.
Actually, China is not the only country with an asteroid preparation plan. The U.S. has also developed an asteroid response plan called HAMMER — which stands for Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response, reported Yahoo News.
- The U.S. plan involves launching 34 to 35 rockets that would travel for two years before hitting an asteroid in an attempt to destroy it, said The Daily Mail.
- For the HAMMER plan to succeed, an asteroid must be discovered 25 years before the possible collision, per Yahoo News.
Could China’s asteroid preparation plan actually work?
China’s plan to deflect an asteroid away from Earth is a lower-risk alternative than destroying the asteroid. Scientists agree that destroying an asteroid may not change the path of smaller fragments, per Reuters.
- The remaining asteroid fragments could still hit Earth and cause serious damage, reported Yahoo News.
Do we need to be concerned about an asteroid colliding with the Earth?
Generally, no. The chances of an asteroid colliding with the Earth are very low but the damage could be severe, reported Reuters.
- There is one substantially-sized asteroid — called Bennu — currently orbiting the sun that will come within 4.6 million miles of the Earth, said The Daily Mail.
- The chances of Bennu hitting the Earth are 1 in 2,700 but scientists consider the potential destruction is enough to warrant concern, reported Yahoo News.