Practice English Speaking&Listening with: How NASA is Planning to Stop Killer Asteroids From Colliding with Earth…

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- Hello, hello happy 4th of July welcome to Rogue Rocket.

My name is Philip DeFranco and today we're

gonna be talking about Armageddon, and specifically

how does one of history's greatest travesties

that this instant classic, this Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck

classic only has a 38% on Rotten Tomatoes?

And the question is how?

Look at this Oscar worthy performance.

- Harry!

You can't do this to me!

It's my job.

- You'll take care of my little girl now.

That's your job.

(dramatic music)

Always thought of you as a son, always.

- A tear on my face every time.

But no the real subject of today's show is how we would deal

with an actual Armageddon scenario if a giant asteroid found

itself on a collision course with Earth,

because while the chance of a major impact anywhere

in the near major is extremely small,

you might be surprised to learn that NASA scientists

are very much preparing for this possibility.

In fact, earlier this year the global science community

held an international conference to try and figure out how

to react to a worse case scenario.

So to deep dive into asteroid Armageddon we had

Cody Snow from the Rogue Rocket team jump into it.


- [Cody] It's December 30, 2021.

According to the worlds best scientists in less than

six years, an asteroid the size of 16 school buses

will collide with Earth directly hitting Denver, Colorado.

While that may sound like the plot of the next Michael Bay

blockbuster, it's the scenario scientists had to deal

with earlier this year at the sixth bi-annual

Planetary Defense Conference.

Over the course of five days, the conference brings together

experts from around the world to discuss how to stop

a fictional asteroid from wiping out

a major population center.

While the exercise may seem silly to some, the fact remains

that a giant asteroid will inevitably hit our planet.

It's a point that scientists and conference speaker

Bill Nye repeatedly hit on.

- Can anybody guess the probability of another impact

akin to the one that formed the Chesapeake Bay?

It's 100% people.

The Earth is going to get hit with another asteroid.

- [Cody] Of course the issue is when.

In any one person's lifetime there is a minuscule chance

of a catastrophic impact.

That's because even though thousands of pieces of small

debris hurdle towards Earth every day nearly all of it burns

up once it reaches Earth's mesosphere.

In this middle area of the atmosphere,

the air density combined with the speed of the traveling

object causes friction and debris up to 33 feet

in diameter disintegrates.

But every so often, larger objects will come into contact

with Earth's atmosphere and won't break a part until

the last second or at all, and you end up with this.

- [Man] What the fuck was that?

(crashing) (exploding)

(glass breaking)

- [Man] (yelling in foreign language)

- That was Chelyabinsk meteor which exploded

over southern Russia in 2013.

It was the largest known natural object to enter

Earth's atmosphere since 1908, but was still

just 66 feet in diameter,

less than the length of an olympic swimming pool.

Showing that even a small object can have

a tremendous impact on our planet.

In fact, the energy it released was equivalent to nearly

30 Hiroshima atomic bombs, and the explosion ended up

injuring 1,500 people and damaging 7,500 buildings.

It's for this reason that many in the space community

believe we need to take asteroid threats seriously,

as it only takes one to cause immense damage

and loss of life.

One of those people is Lindley Johnson, NASA's first

and only Planetary Defense Officer who oversees the agency's

asteroid detection program.

He told us that while other natural disasters like fires,

floods, and volcanic eruptions are far more common,

we still have so much to discover about the thousands

of objects near Earth's orbit.

- Of the over 2,000 near Earth asteroids that we now have

in our catalog, none of them so far have a significant

potential for impact hitting Earth.

So that shows not a common occurrence, but the thing is

that is a small fraction of the number of objects

that are out there.

- [Cody] Of course you can't stop an asteroid

unless you detect it first, which can often

be a major challenge.

In fact, the Chelyabinsk meteor entered Earth's atmosphere

undetected because it's visible location in the sky

called the radiant was obscured by the sun,

but most objects can be detected by viewing their movement

against the background of more distant stars.

And the good news is that over the last 20 years thanks

to advance telescopes, observatories around the world

have made tremendous efforts in detecting near Earth

objects, or NEOs.

These NEOs are any objects that pass within 30 million

miles of our planet's orbit, or roughly the same distance

as Mars is to Earth at it's closest orbit.

While there is no official process to discovering

these objects, most new discoveries are reported

to the Minor Planet Center or MPC.

The MPC catalogs all the known objects in our solar system

that are smaller than a planet.

Once an observatory reports the discovery of the object

to the MPC the Center then calculates the object's orbit

so that it can be determined whether,

or not it could hit us.

But even with this comprehensive cataloging system,

it's estimated that we've only found one-third

of the potentially devastating NEOs out there.

It's why Congress actually mandated in 2005 that NASA

find 90% of all NEOs 460 feet and larger by the end of 2020.

It's a goal that NASA will definitely not meet at its

current rate of discovery.

Partially because funding for planetary defense programs,

and missions currently only sits at about

$150 million dollars a year.

- I think it is definitely worth the funding involved

to have a robust detection program

that we can find these things as early as we can

so that if we do have the time to do something about them,

if we need to because otherwise

if we find them too late all the money in the world

isn't going to prevent the impact.

- [Cody] Of course, even if we detect every single NEO

that could wipe out humanity, it won't be too useful

unless we can divert or destroy them.

Thanks to Hollywood the first image that probably

comes to mind when trying to prevent Armageddon

is nuclear weapons.

(rousing music)


But as Johnson points out, if this option was chosen,

it would be very different from how

it's portrayed in the movies.

- We would not employ it in the way that they do in the

movies, you know and plant it on the asteroid and blow it

up, because all that mass is continuing to come

at the Earth; you're turning a rifle bullet

into a buckshot basically.

- [Cody] Instead Johnson says that the nuclear device

would be detonated several hundred meters above

the surface of the asteroid.

- That causes the surface material to super heat,

expand and blow off the surface, and so you have a large

amount of mass that is blowing off from the surface

of the asteroid and that causes of course a reaction

in the other direction of the asteroid so it gives

it a shove so to speak to change it's orbital momentum.

- [Cody] Johnson also says that using nuclear device would

only be used as last desperate effort if we had very little

warning time, which is unlikely given how far out

we're detecting most of these objects.

So instead of focusing on the nuclear option,

in recent years space agencies have embraced a different

route focused on space crafts called kinetic impacters.

In January 2005, NASA launched a mission called Deep Impact.

A kinetic impacter traveled millions of miles in space

over six months to reach a small comet about 3.7 miles

in diameter called Temple One.

While that may seem small, it's about half the size

of the object that scientists think killed off

all the dinosaurs.

On July 4th of that year part of the impacter

successfully collided with the comet's nucleus making it

the first human object to touch a comet.

The collision not only gave NASA valuable information

about the interior of a comet, but also showed that

it was actually possible to hit an NEO.

- We showed that we could encounter an object tens

of millions of miles in space.

Launch an impacter at it, and hit a relatively small body

although Temple One was several kilometers across,

but hit an object that size at tens of kilometers

relative motion in tens of kilometers a second

at 80 million miles away from the Earth.

- [Cody] In 2015, NASA and the European Space Agency

announced a double mission called the Asteroid Impact

and Deflection Assessment, or AIDA.

AIDA is set to launch in 2021.

If successful, it would be the first time a human object

comes into contact with a binary asteroid, which just means

an asteroid made up of two parts, with smaller of the two

parts orbiting the larger one at close range,

much like a moon and a planet.

This type of asteroid is significant because these moon-like

asteroids orbit their parent asteroid

at a relatively low speed.

Compared to a lone object which orbits the sun

at a much faster rate.

Making them the ideal testing ground for orbit diversion.

The goal is to send two different space crafts towards

a binary asteroid called 65803 Didymos.

The smaller of the two Didymos asteroids is about 524 feet

across, eight times larger than the Chelyabinsk meteor.

The first part of the mission overseen by NASA is called

DART short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test.

The goal is to deliberately crash a space craft into

the smaller Didymos asteroid by 2022.

It's believed that this collision will change the speed

of the moon's orbit around the larger body

by a fraction of 1%.

Even though that's just a tiny change, scientists believe

it should be enough to observe the shift in its orbit

using telescopes from Earth.

As to why the AIDA mission is so important,

legendary rock guitarist for Queen, Brian May,

who also happens to be an astrophysicists says this

in an informational video put out by the

European Space Agency:

- Why do we want to rendezvous with an asteroid?

Well we need to know what would happen

if one of these asteroids hits the Earth.

And this experiment is actually to try and see what happens

if you hit an asteroid with an object.

Does it deflect it?

It may very well do, that's the theory,

but every theory needs testing.

- [Cody] The second part of the mission overseen by the ESA

will launch a second space craft called Hera to perform

a close up survey of Didymos.

Hera is supposed to arrive by 2026, and will observe

the mass of the deflected asteroid and the size

of the crater left by DART's impact.

This is crucial information that needs to be known

if scientists ever use this collision technique to divert

an Earth bound asteroid from its path.

Of course, in many cases we will have years or even decades

of advance warning that a catastrophic object

is heading towards Earth.

And with enough warning time scientists and engineers

could employ a far less dramatic technique called

a gravity tractor.

The concept is still very much theoretical,

but essentially the idea is that if you sent a large enough

space craft to fly alongside the object,

the gravitational tug of the craft could change

its orbit and pull it out of Earth's path.

- You change the course of the asteroid over time

and so you tug on it awhile.

You observe and see where the new orbit

that you have the asteroid in.

If you haven't removed it enough from Earth's vicinity,

then you just tug a little while longer until you have more

precise control over what is the new orbit that you drop

the asteroid in.

As opposed to a kinetic impacter you hit it,

what you hit is what you get.

- [Cody] On the downside it would be an extremely complex

mission and only work for smaller asteroids.

As the craft would have fly within 50 meters of the object

for years or even decades to be effective.

So given all these options how did scientists and engineers

at the Planetary Defense Conference deice to respond

to the Denver bound asteroid?

Well a fleet of six kinetic impacters were built

by Space Agencies around the world and sent towards

the asteroid.

Three of the impacters were successful in hitting

their target, but a fragment of the asteroid up to 260 feet

in diameter broke away and remained on

a collision course with Earth.

And the object eventually hit New York City killing

1.3 million people.

So it's a good thing it was all a simulation.

Johnson says that while developing effective mitigation

strategies is an important part of the event,

the bigger goal is learning how to work together

as an international community.

- Each of these conferences the more and more folks get

involved with the community and so this helps us develop

a common dialog, a common language and understanding

not only just here in the Untied States,

but internationally as well.

- [Cody] And it's this common understanding that will

be just as important as overcoming any technical challenge

if humanity is to avert disaster when this

inevitable day comes.

- So now that you've heard more about some of the steps

that NASA and other space agencies are taking to prepare

for an asteroid impact, I want to pass

a question off to you.

Do you believe that various countries could overcome

their differences to stop a massive threat like this?

Do you think that we should be investing more in programs

that detect potentially dangerous asteroids?

Or is that money better spent elsewhere given how minuscule

the chances of being hit any time soon are.

I'd love to know your thoughts in those

comments down below.

Also, if you like this video be sure to take

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But with that said thank you so much for watching

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with the next Rogue Rocket deep dive.

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