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Could We Stop a Killer?
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Could We Stop a Killer?

Credit: Ben Sutherland
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bensutherland/5726336994/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

A giant asteroid is hurtling towards Earth, threatening all life. A doomsday scenario just like this took out the dinosaurs. Could humans meet the same fate? What could we do to stop it?

Can We Stop an Asteroid from Striking Earth?

If the asteroid that ended the reign of the dinosaurs struck Earth now, human civilization would be toast. The dinosaurs didn’t see that asteroid coming and if they had they couldn’t have done anything to stop it. Can humans do those things? We can see asteroids in space, but can we stop them before they strike? To do this, we would have to detect the asteroid far enough ahead of time to mount a defense. The world’s governments would need to agree on what to do. Then we would need to do it. But what could we do?

Credit: NASA, composition by Urhixidur
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:4_Vesta_1_Ceres_Moon_at_20_km_per_px.png
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

The biggest asteroid Vesta, dwarf planet Ceres, Earth's Moon (left to right) pictured to scale [Figure2]

Can You Apply It?

With the links below, learn more about how to stop an asteroid. Then answer the following questions.

  1. How does the slow push method keep the asteroid from striking Earth?
  2. Would the slow push method save the planet from the impact described in the news story?
  3. What is the disadvantage of using kinetic impact to blow the asteroid up?
  4. What are the problems with blowing up the asteroid with a nuclear bomb?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Ben Sutherland; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bensutherland/5726336994/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: NASA, composition by Urhixidur; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:4_Vesta_1_Ceres_Moon_at_20_km_per_px.png; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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