It could be that one day, the path of a huge asteroid coincides with the position of our planet. Although this risk is low, scientists are working on ways to protect the Earth from this risk. In such a case, there would be no question of destroying the asteroid, but rather of deflecting it from its trajectory.
The idea is there, the technologies necessary for the deflection of an asteroid are still imaginary, but perhaps not for long.
First, let’s take stock of the known asteroids. In our Solar System, we have identified 600,000 asteroids of which 10,000 have been designated as near-Earth objects and close to us. Thus, these represent a threat if their orbit crosses that of the Earth or if they approach it to the point that a modification of their orbit could cause a collision.
Near-Earth asteroids longer than one kilometer are all identified, whereas only 80% of those measuring 500m and 20 and 10% of those measuring 300 and 100m are known. Size matters a lot when imagining a collision with Earth, simply because the destruction of a large city is not the same as the total destruction of the planet! This threat, although it is still unlikely, is taken very seriously by scientists who are working to find solutions.
Among them, we have Patrick Michel, research director at the CNRS and head of the Planetology team at the Côte d’Azur Observatory. The latter gives an explanation of the asteroid phenomenon and the probabilities of collision:
“An asteroid is a small pebble that is part of the remains of the bricks that formed our planets. Some are dangerous because even though most reside between Mars and Jupiter in the asteroid belt, there are others whose trajectory intersects with Earth’s trajectory and they are the ones that pose a danger. Even if the impact frequencies remain very low, like in the Loto where the probability of winning is very low, there are some who win. »
If two missions (Japanese and American) have already visited asteroids in order to bring back samples, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) plan to collaborate to carry out an unprecedented operation: the AIDA mission, the purpose of which is East “to employ a risk mitigation technique called a ‘kinetic impactor’ to test whether asteroids can be deflected from their path. » This mission will be truly launched in 2020 for an impact expected in 2022.
More details in the press release from the European Space Agency.
Sources: ESA – Euronews – Futura Sciences