Saving Earth From The Space Rocks ~ Kwentology

Image of Comet About To Hit EarthPeople have always kept their eyes on the skies. But thanks to powerful telescopes, space probes, and brave astronauts, our knowledge of heavenly bodies is at an all-time high.

How Can We Protect Earth from Big Space Rocks?

Every day, 100 tons of asteroids and comets land on the surface of Earth. Almost all of these pieces are too tiny to cause harm. But much larger rocks have struck Earth. Millions of years ago, a rock about a mile and a half wide and weighing 10 billion tons hit what is now Manson, Illinois. It created a crater three miles deep and about 18 miles wide. Glaciers smoothed over the crater, so it's no longer visible. About 65 million years ago, a huge comet hit near Mexico, leaving a crater 110 miles across. Its blast may have wiped out the dinosaurs.

Can we hit again by a large meteor or asteroid? According to scientists, about 320,000 asteroids larger than 300 feet across orbit within our solar system. If any one of them hit Earth, it would be a disaster. Scientists think that none of those rocks will collide with our planet during the next few hundred thousand years. But if one of them did head towards Earth, how could we avoid getting hit? Scientists are coming up with plans to keep Earth safe.

Early Warning

To keep Earth safe from comets and asteroids, scientists first have to pinpoint where the rocks are. NASA's Near Earth Object Program is locating and tracking at least 90 percent of space rocks larger than 450 feet on our solar system.

Bad Breakup

Scientists wouldn't blast a rock to pieces with a nuclear missile: Those pieces could hit Earth and cause just as much damage. But a nuclear blast set off near a small rock might completely vaporize it.

Nudge, Nudge

Setting off a nuclear weapon high above the surface of a space rock would make the rock move slightly in the opposite direction, changing its speed and causing it to miss Earth.

Mutual Attraction

A large unmanned spacecraft could put in orbit around a space rock. The gravity of both objects would attract each other. This would change the path of space rock enough to avoid Earth.

Catching Rays

One bright idea is to place large solar sails on the space object. Rays from the sun would push against the surface of the sails and slowly redirect the object away from Earth.

Hot Spot

Instead of using a nuclear blast to nudge the space object, laser beams from a spacecraft would do the trick.

Image of Crater in Tunguska Event in Russia an Asteroid that make a huge hole on Earth

Rocking Russia

On June 30, 1908, a huge explosion took place in Tunguska, a remote part of Russia. The blast knocked down trees for 20 miles. People living 250 miles from the explosion saw a huge fireball that rose 12 miles in the sky. An area of several hundred square miles was scorched. The sound of the blast was heard 500 miles away.

Scientists think the explosion was caused by a comet or an asteroid about 500 feet wide and weighing 7 million tons. As the object sped through Earth's atmosphere, it heated up and exploded about five miles above the ground. No fragments were left behind. Fortunately, the object burst over an unpopulated area. See image above that was the crater made by gigantic space rock hit once on Earth.
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