Asteroid Simulation Ends in Unavoidable disaster for Earth

Earth is a fragile place in the respect that all life depends on the environment staying at a constant. However, if we eliminate all of the conspiracy theories, there are still some real concerns, although these concerns are minimum they still hold some probability. Two popular theories have drawn much attention to their potential demise towards humanity. The first being a super-volcanic eruption, these have occurred throughout history, the last super-eruption being that of Toba just 75,000 years ago. Because our forefathers were alive to see this horrific catastrophe, some experts believe it had a huge impact on the human population at the time, causing Earth's climate to suffer a 5- to 10-year volcanic winter. Although Toba nowadays does not play the central role for the next super-volcanic eruption, the prime focus tends to be drawn towards Yellowstone caldera.

Another common threat dramatised through blockbuster movies is that of an asteroid impact. Asteroids become more threatening due to their size, shape and the geological material that supports them. Clearly, any asteroid impact would offer dangerous consequences which become more predominant in populated areas like cities. Some extremely large asteroids are classified as near-earth objects, these are constantly monitored by space agencies, although they are not predicted to come into contact with the earth they still promote a worrying concern. Two of the biggest near-Earth objects 433 Eros and 1036 Ganymed, were naturally also among the first to be detected. 1036 Ganymed is about 35 km (22 mi) in diameter and 433 Eros is about 17 km (11 mi) in diameter.  

The movie below depicts two simulated scenarios: a Yellowstone super-eruption and a huge asteroid impact, which illustrate the worst-case scenario.

Probability of a super-eruption at Yellowstone

Although it is possible, scientists are not convinced that there will ever be another catastrophic eruption at Yellowstone. Given Yellowstone's past history, the yearly probability of another caldera-forming eruption can be approximated as 1 in 730,000 or 0.00014%.

Probability of an Asteroid hitting Earth

Asteroids with a diameter of 1 km (0.62 mi) hit Earth once every 500,000 years on average. Large collisions involving 5 km (3 km) objects occur once every twenty million years on average.

According to simulations conducted by premier space agencies, there is currently no technology on Earth that might prevent a huge asteroid from wiping out Europe. Even with six months to prepare, the week-long experiment sponsored by Nasa decided that disaster would be unavoidable.

The hypothetical impact scenario, which took place during a United Nations-hosted planetary defence conference, demonstrated that governments are poorly equipped for such a disaster.

With current capabilities, we would not be able to launch any spacecraft on such short notice if confronted with the scenario in real life.

The only way to deal with such a situation would be to flee the area before the asteroid struck, but the impact zone stretched across much of North Africa and Europe.

Each time we take part in a drill like this, we gain a better understanding of who the main players are in a disaster and who needs to know what information and when.

These drills assist the planetary defence community to communicate with one another and with our governments, ensuring that we are all on the same page if a potential impact threat is recognised in the future.

One of several reasons for the demand for larger and more complex rockets is the lack of a solution.

Nasa recently awarded SpaceX a $2.89 billion contract to create their next-generation Starship spacecraft, which will transport people and goods throughout the Solar System.

SpaceX claims Starship will be the world's most powerful launch vehicle ever constructed when combined with its Super Heavy rocket Booster, and could conceivably be used to aid missions aiming to detour the path of an Earth-bound asteroid.

Nasa is already working on asteroid deflection technology and plans to launch its first test mission of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) system in late 2021, with the asteroid Dimorphos as its target in autumn 2022.

The mission will attempt to alter the asteroid's orbit, to demonstrate that such a mitigation method may be applied to dangerous near-Earth objects (NEOs) in the future.

DART will be the first planetary defence test, and the data collected after it collides with Dimorphos will assist scientists in better understand how we can minimise a potentially dangerous NEO identified in the future.

While the asteroid DART does not pose a threat to Earth, it is in an ideal location for us to do this technology test before it is needed.

Nasa is presently tracking over 25,000 NEOs, with around 30 new discoveries being made each week.


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