65 million years ago, a large asteroid collided with Earth near present-day Chicxulub, Mexico. The impact was a climactic event that likely contributed to dinosaur extinction. Today, Earth remains vulnerable to asteroid collisions.
In recent history, space rocks have landed in The United States, Russia, and elsewhere. In the event of a potential asteroid collision, NASA has developed several options for dealing with the threat. Researchers at NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies and Jet Propulsion Laboratory have proposed using blunt force, weaponized deflection or a theoretical tool called a gravity tractor to deflect impact. In addition to developing contingency plans, NASA scientists are also searching the sky for future asteroid threats.
- If a giant asteroid were to hit the Earth, NASA and FEMA have a plan.
- Although an asteroid of that size would be rare — NASA estimates a one-mile-wide asteroid only hits the Earth once every one million years — the two agencies have performed multiple test runs to ensure we’d be prepared.
- “It’s not a matter of if, but when, we will deal with such a situation,” said astrophysicist Thomas Zurbuchen.