Asteroid Apophis might become a threat in few decades’ time. But, scientists have proposed solutions to prevent it from colliding with us, in case its trajectory takes a dangerous turn.
Asteroid 99942 Apophis is apparently keen on getting nearer to us. It was within 0.1 astronomical units (AU) of hitting our planet on January 9, 2013. Had it impacted on planet, the whole of humankind would have been wiped out.
Fortunately, it was at a decent distance from us – around 9 million miles away. Yep, we dodged a huge bullet.
But, here’s the problem: Apophis will come by again in 2029, and scientists are not absolutely sure and certain that it will not hit us then. There might be a 1-in-45,000 chance of it hitting us. Based on other calculations, the asteroid might miss the Earth by around 18,000 miles on April 13, 2029. Still, what are we poor, helpless humans to do with such dooming threats (literally) over our heads? Bear in mind that Apophis is said to be worth 100,000 Hiroshima bombs…
Even if we do remain ‘un-targeted’, it will come back again in 2036! Ah, it seems that it simply won’t leave ‘chasing’ us!!
But also know that Apophis is not the only one. There are hundreds of near-Earth objects (NEOs) that might one day become a great hazard for us. Given the potential threats asteroids might pose to us, scientists have been busy working out the probabilities of any one of them hitting us; they are always monitoring heavenly bodies that might come into collision with our beloved planet, and finding ways to counter such occurrences if need be. This is what has motivated Russia to come up with a plan. A nuclear plan.
Having been hit by an asteroid back in 2013 that had resulted in many people getting injured, Russia intends to ensure no such thing happens again. It will dedicate a proportion of its nuclear ballistic missile arsenal to get rid of asteroids threatening life on Earth. Nuclear missiles would be ideal for impacts that scientists can forecast only hours before they happen. Since the weapons would be on launch alert 24/7, they can be used in such dire situations, at short notice.
Russian scientists are thus working to make of this a reality. The current nuclear weapons are not equipped such that they could be used to blast asteroids lurking above the planet – they will have to be re-engineered. The imminent coming of Apophis might thus constitute a test for the upgraded weapon.
Other unconventional strategies have been mentioned by other researchers. Recently, a team proposed the use of a laser weapon to destroy asteroids that are on their way to hit the Earth.
When life on Earth is threatened, humans will undoubtedly strive to come up with creative ways to protect themselves – as much as they can, that is.