Asteroid warning: Expert fears NASA can’t stop certain impact – ‘Insanely irresponsible’ | Science | News

Asteroid warning: Expert fears NASA can't stop certain impact - 'Insanely irresponsible' | Science | News 45

An asteroid strike in 2013 took the world by surprise when a 65.6ft-wide (20m) rock entered the atmosphere undetected. The so-called Chelyabinsk Meteor highlighted the need for better defences and served as a “wake-up call” for NASA. The US space agency is currently involved in the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), a mission meant to test NASA’s ability to push away asteroids headed for Earth. At the same time, the European Space Agency (ESA) is involved with project Hera – a mission to survey the results of NASA’s DART.

Together, the two space agencies have dubbed their efforts the Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment or AIDA for short.

But the work being done to protect Earth from deep-space threats is simply not enough one space expert fears.

And if money cannot be pooled together to fight the danger, the expert said Earth will reap what it sows.

Lembit Öpik, the Chairman of Parliament for the space nation Asgardia, told more needs to be done to address dangers from space.

Mr Öpik said: “They’re not doing enough to protect the Earth and so the answer is simple.

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Asteroid warning: A space expert believes not enough is being done to protect Earth (Image: NASA/GETTY)

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“If everything that needed to happen was happening, you wouldn’t need Asgardia.”

Mr Öpik has a track record of campaigning for more threat awareness, in particular, in regards to Near-Earth Object (NEO) asteroids and comets.

He recently told there is a 100% certainty Earth faces a major asteroid strike but we cannot predict when or where it will happen.

Mr Öpik served as Member of Parliament Montgomeryshire in Wales between 1998 and 2010.

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During this time, he campaigned for the Government to instigate a report into spaceborne threats.

If the human race isn’t willing to pay such a modest insurance policy then it deserves what it gets

Lembit Öpik, Chairman of Parliament of Asgardia

In 1999, Mr Öpik called on the Government to invest between £500,000 and £1million on asteroid-tracking solutions.

His work culminated in the year 2000 with the Near-Earth Object Task Group.

The group produced a detailed report in September that year, which stated: “The level of the risk to life and property from Near Earth Objects is largely related to what we choose to do in the future.

“If we do nothing, the consequences would be as described here.

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Asteroid warning: Space rock heading towards Earth

Asteroid warning: NASA is working on an asteroid redirection test dubbed DART (Image: GETTY)

Asteroid warning: Giant space rock striking Earth

Asteroid warning: Lembit Öpik fears not enough money is being invested in asteroid defence systems (Image: GETTY)

“But by discovering and tracking most of the dangerous objects (at the same time improving our statistical knowledge of the remainder), and by studying further the consequences of impacts and the possibilities for mitigation, we can hope to exert some control over future events.”

Now, through his work with Asgardia, Mr Öpik said the space-based micronation of concerned scientists and engineers offers a real solution to the problem.

He said: “In terms of Earth, we are behaving in an insanely irresponsible way by not investing the tiny amounts you need to protect and deflect.

“And by tiny amounts, we are talking about a few tens of billions of pounds for a global defence system.

“If the human race isn’t willing to pay such a modest insurance policy then it deserves what it gets.

“It would be an act of unforgivable neglect if we carry on doing it, so it’s good NASA is doing some of these experiments but the amount their investing is still trivial.”

In April, NASA awarded the California-based SpaceX a contract to provide a launch service for DART.

In total, the US space agency said the asteroid redirection test carries a price tag of around £56million ($69million).

NASA is targeting June 2021 for the DART mission, which is then expected to rendezvous with a binary asteroid system dubbed Didymos.

DART will reach the two space rocks by October 2022, approximately 6.8 million miles (11 million km) from Earth.

DART will then fly into Didymos at high speeds to slightly knock it off orbit.

Even a small orbital change millions of miles from Earth should result in the asteroid giving Earth a wide berth.

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