Don’t Panic! The Hitchhikers Guide to Asteroids.

[Betlehem Fekade | Innovation Editor]

The threat of human extinction is a fascinating prospect often theorised about in fiction, with Doomsday predictions and fears hovering over every society since the beginning of civilisation; nothing presents a more realistic and plausible apocalyptic scenario than the threat of giant asteroid impact. The internet was set alight by a rumoured asteroid that was set to make a very close pass with our little blue rock earlier last month. The asteroid in question, 2015 SZ2, was said to be a gargantuan two miles wide, and came within 309,000 miles of the Earth, putting our world an astronomical hair’s breadth away from being on the wrong side of a Bruce Willis movie.

Before you pack your belongings and find the nearest fallout shelter, rest easy. This story was found to be nothing more than a sensationalist rumour, grounded in neither fact nor science. NASA has announced that the chance of these so called “Near-Earth Objects” striking the Earth in the next 100 years is around 0.01 per cent. Nevertheless, NASA, the European Space Agency and other national space agencies from around the world are working on a pre-emptive mission the Asteroid Deflection & Assessment (AIDA) to launch a space probe which will study the effects of crashing a space probe into an asteroid to divert it away from Earth. The mission, which is set to launch in October 2020, will aim to send two space probes (AIM and DART), to a nearby pair of asteroids and observe the kinetic effects of crashing DART into a small asteroid.

For those of you who are prone to anxiety, don’t panic – this is not a near-Earth asteroid and does not present any danger to the world, but presents a brilliant chance to observe the effects of impact on the trajectory of an asteroid – something that just might save us someday.

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Don’t Panic! The Hitchhikers Guide to Asteroids.