EXTINCTION-LEVEL

Earth Is Totally Unprepared for Asteroid

Earthlings are completely unprepared for an asteroid or a comet hurtling toward our planet, a NASA scientist said Monday. Joseph Nuth, a researcher with the space agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said, “The biggest problem, basically, is there’s not a hell of a lot we can do about it at the moment.” Nuth spoke at the annual American Geophysical Union meeting, noting that such an Armageddon-like event would be extremely rare. “But on the other hand, they are the extinction-level events, things like dinosaur killers, they’re 50 to 60 million years apart, essentially. You could say, of course, we’re due, but it’s a random course at that point,” he continued. “If you look at the schedule for high-reliability spacecraft and launching them, it takes five years to launch a spacecraft. We had 22 months of total warning” in 2014 during our last “close encounter.” He stressed that having a rocket ready to launch within a year—even one kept in storage—“could mitigate the possibility of a sneaky asteroid coming in from a place that’s hard to observe, like from the sun.” Such a mission would require congressional approval.