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The Asteroid Challenge: Will We Be Ready?

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Apollo 9 Astronaut Rusty Schweickart discusses asteroid 2011 AG5, a near earth object with a 1/625 chance of striking the Earth in 2040. Today he is Chairman of the Association of Space Explorers Near Earth Object (NEO) committee and also Chairman of the Board of the B612 Foundation, which “seeks to significantly alter the orbit of an asteroid in a controlled manner by 2015.” In 2009 Rusty Schweickart also visited the class to discuss this Asteroid Challenge:

From Schweickart’s interview in Astrobiology Magazine:

“While a collision with an asteroid of 1 km. or larger would threaten human civilization, collisions with asteroids smaller by a factor of 10 would be substantial and threaten local and regional populations. A 100 meter diameter asteroid would have the equivalent impact energy of a 100 megaton nuclear weapon. Since the expected population of NEOs of this size is approximately 200,000 the collision rate is considerably higher than those that threaten society as a whole. An impact by a 100 meter NEO is anticipated on the order of every 2-4000 years.”

Worth Watching: Schweickart also remembers his EVA (extra-vehicular activity) in Earth Orbit on Apollo 9, when he first began to contemplate our part in cosmic birth.


Below is an animation of the NEOs found inside the orbit of Jupiter since 1980, created by Scott Manley.

Martian MeteoriteNext: ALH 84001 and Other Martian Meteorites