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“Blind Luck” Keeping Earth From Being Destroyed by an Asteroid

by Brandon Russell | April 18, 2014April 18, 2014 8:00 pm PST

asteroid earth

NASA is currently keeping tabs on near-Earth asteroids, and is even considering an unprecedented mission to capture and study one in low-Earth orbit. But there’s a possibility we could get an even closer look at a devastating space rock sometime in the future, according to new research. You know that asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs, and the one before that that was even larger? Apparently not uncommon. Better start building an underground bunker now.

Three former NASA astronauts are set to present the new revelation next week, which suggests asteroid impacts actually aren’t all that rare, and in fact are 3-10 times more common than previously thought. So while you’re obliviously going about your day, drinking lattes and playing Flappy Bird, Earth isn’t being blown to smithereens due to sheer, dumb luck.

After collecting visualization data from a nuclear weapons warning network, the three ex-astronauts concluded that us Earthlings should be counting our lucky stars that we’re still alive. Wait, maybe that’s not the most sensitive turn of phrase. Here is how the three NASA astronauts put it: “the only thing preventing a catastrophe from a “city-killer” sized asteroid is blind luck.”

Not at all comforting, you guys. Earth has apparently experienced numerous large-scale asteroid impacts over the last decade. Not extinction-level events, but similar to the Chelyabinsk incident from February 2013. These events, luckily, have happened in remote locations. But the fact that nobody noticed is troubling, and indicates that keeping our eyes on the sky is more than difficult—more like next to impossible.

Luckily a defense is being developed. The B612 Foundation is building a Sentinel Infrared Space Telescope, which will be sent to space in 2017 in an effort to keep track of near-Earth objects over 140 meters in size. Hopefully we don’t have any unexpected humanity-killing asteroids before then. Or, well, maybe I’d rather not know just how precarious our position in space is. Ignorance, as they say, can be bliss.


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell likes to rollerblade while listening to ACDC.