Can we protect Earth from a devastating asteroid? - My9 New Jersey

Can we protect Earth from a devastating asteroid?

Posted: Updated:
NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

It came without warning: a house-sized asteroid hit Chelyabinsk, Russia, more than a year ago. The asteroid was traveling at nearly 40,000 miles an hour with more explosive energy than the nuclear bomb that exploded over Hiroshima. Those on the ground suffered injuries, mostly cuts, but no one died.

Why? In a word: luck.

"Had it hit much lower, no one who observed the event would have been alive to talk about it," said Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist and the host of "Cosmos" on FOX.

He called that a fortunate experiment, a wake-up call with minimal consequences.

"One of my favorite posters on the Internet says 'asteroids are nature's way of asking you how is that space program coming along?" he said.

Asteroids are rocks, sometimes containing metal, that orbit the sun. When they hit the ground, as the one in Russia did, they're called meteorites.

A meteorite that hit Greenland thousands of years ago weighs about 34 tons. By comparison, the meteorite that hit Russia last year weighed about 10,000 tons.

But hold on. What if there was a way to alter the tracks of asteroids and therefore eliminate the threat they pose to us here on earth?

NASA says there is. The agency calls it the asteroid redirect mission. The Obama administration has asked Congress for $133 million in the 2015 fiscal year to fund it. The goal is to find an asteroid near earth, lasso it, and eventually send humans to land on it and study it.

NASA also wants to prove that it can move an asteroid in case one is on a collision course with us.

"Rather than just run from it and buy water and toilet paper, you can say 'we can deflect this,'" Tyson said.

We asked Dr. Denton Ebel at the Museum of Natural History how that might be done.

"The gravity of our spacecraft would pull the object off its course to a different course," Ebel said. "In the long run, there's an asteroid with our name on it."

Those are ominous words that evoke the thriller "Armageddon."

But scientists say this isn't the stuff of science fiction. It's science fact.

"For the future of our wealth, our health, our security, our energy needs, if we ignore what space has to offer, we will doom ourselves to extinction here on earth," Tyson said.

While Tyson said that he wants NASA to pursue its asteroid ambitions, he acknowledged the technology may still be years away.

A cosmic event doomed the dinosaurs. It might take some big ideas, such as those NASA is studying, for us to avoid the same fate.

  • The Big IdeaMore>>

  • The Big Idea

    Making New York City more energy efficient

    Making New York City more energy efficient

    Tuesday, July 29 2014 9:22 AM EDT2014-07-29 13:22:47 GMT
    More than half the population of New York City rides public transportation to work. No other metropolis in this country even approaches that percentage or the MTA's total number of riders. For that reason, New York likely ranks as the most energy-efficient city in the nation. But what would it take to make the city even more energy-efficient or even self-sufficient?
    More than half the population of New York City rides public transportation to work. No other metropolis in this country even approaches that percentage or the MTA's total number of riders. For that reason, New York likely ranks as the most energy-efficient city in the nation. But what would it take to make the city even more energy-efficient or even self-sufficient?
  • The Big Idea

    Can you fight a hurricane?

    Can you fight a hurricane?

    Monday, June 23 2014 10:24 PM EDT2014-06-24 02:24:11 GMT
    Superstorm Sandy turned this region upside down, destroying homes, obliterating businesses, ruining coastlines, and uprooting lives. Like so many, I watched as Sandy reduced our beach-side towns to rubble. In the two years that have passed, the focus has been on rebuilding getting people back on their feet. But what if you could fight Mother Nature?Hurricanes are fueled by the heat and energy in warm ocean water.
    Superstorm Sandy turned this region upside down, destroying homes, obliterating businesses, ruining coastlines, and uprooting lives. Like so many, I watched as Sandy reduced our beach-side towns to rubble. In the two years that have passed, the focus has been on rebuilding getting people back on their feet. But what if you could fight Mother Nature?Hurricanes are fueled by the heat and energy in warm ocean water.
  • The Big Idea

    3D printing revolutionizing medicine and more

    3D printing revolutionizing medicine and more

    Tuesday, May 20 2014 10:46 AM EDT2014-05-20 14:46:59 GMT
    Imagine it. Design it. Hold it in your hands. Technology first introduced in the 1980s is now open to a whole new market with 3D printers regularly available for less than $2,000. It's creating a wave of innovation and new competition among entrepreneurs like Jerry Castanos. He just opened 3D Heights, a full-service printing lab in Washington Heights. Among his top clients are med students at nearby Columbia University.
    Imagine it. Design it. Hold it in your hands. Technology first introduced in the 1980s is now open to a whole new market with 3D printers regularly available for less than $2,000. It's creating a wave of innovation and new competition among entrepreneurs like Jerry Castanos. He just opened 3D Heights, a full-service printing lab in Washington Heights. Among his top clients are med students at nearby Columbia University.
  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • Contract talks in Met Opera labor dispute extended

    Contract talks in Met Opera labor dispute extended

    Friday, August 1 2014 5:55 AM EDT2014-08-01 09:55:06 GMT
    A federal mediator is on her way to New York to try to resolve a labor faceoff at New York's Metropolitan Opera.
    New York's Metropolitan Opera says labor talks with its unions have been extended for an additional 72 hours, averting a threatened midnight lockout.
  • New York's smallest piece of private land

    New York's smallest piece of private land

    Friday, August 1 2014 5:45 AM EDT2014-08-01 09:45:15 GMT
    The Hess triangle is a tiny piece of private property in Greenwich Village. Manhattan historian Joyce Gold explained the origins of the property: After World War I, New York City seized a beautiful residence and tore it down so it could extend Seventh Avenue and the west side subway below it. The city left the building's owner only a tiny scrap of property so small it requested he donate the triangle to make way for a sidewalk. The man refused, took the city to court and won.
    The Hess triangle is a tiny piece of private property in Greenwich Village. Manhattan historian Joyce Gold explained the origins of the property: After World War I, New York City seized a beautiful residence and tore it down so it could extend Seventh Avenue and the west side subway below it. The city left the building's owner only a tiny scrap of property so small it requested he donate the triangle to make way for a sidewalk. The man refused, took the city to court and won.
  • Runners of 3,100-mile race in Queens seek spiritual experience

    Runners of 3,100-mile race in Queens seek spiritual experience

    Thursday, July 31 2014 7:26 PM EDT2014-07-31 23:26:44 GMT
    Since mid-June, 14 runners have been on a mission that is spiritual at its core. They are running the Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile Race in Jamaica, Queens. Spiritual leader and former Queens resident Sri Chimnoy, who died in 2007, created the race, which lasts 52 days.
    Since mid-June, 14 runners have been on a mission that is spiritual at its core. They are running the Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile Race in Jamaica, Queens. Spiritual leader and former Queens resident Sri Chimnoy, who died in 2007, created the race, which lasts 52 days.
Powered by WorldNow
Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices