It’s the stuff of science fiction: Scientists discover that an asteroid is heading for Earth, and we don’t have any measures in place to prevent the space rock from hitting us. But this scenario is actually more plausible than many people realize.=
There are about 15,000 asteroids in our immediate galactic neighborhood. On March 2, astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona spotted a 10-foot-wide space rock that passed Earth, “diving in closer than many communications and weather satellites,” Space.com reports. The asteroid came within 9,000 miles of Earth, according to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies. The moon, by comparison, is about 239,000 miles from Earth.
NASA has a website devoted to the possibility of an asteroid hitting the planet. And it’s involved in an international collaboration with the European Space Agency, known as the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment mission, to address the issue. AIDA is in the planning stages of a proposal to somehow alter the course of asteroids in outer space ― especially any that are in danger of hitting Earth.
Ed Beshore, an engineer who helped build the Catalina Sky Survey software technology that detects asteroids, said we’re still several years away from even the first stages of the AIDA experimental asteroid deflection system, and the project needs a lot of funding.