Earth is due for an “extinction-level” event from the sky, and even if we see it coming, we won’t be able to do anything about it, a NASA scientist said Monday.
Speaking at a meeting in San Francisco, Dr. Joseph Nuth of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said large asteroids and comets, the type that could wipe out civilization, are extremely rare, but tend to hit “50 to 60 million years apart.” Given that a comet wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, one could argue that we’re slightly past “due.”
“The biggest problem, basically, is there’s not a hell of a lot we can do about it at the moment,” he added.
But maybe there could be. Nuth cited a close encounter in 2014, when a comet passed perilously close to Mars. It wasn’t spotted until 22 months before it nearly reached the planet, which Nuth says isn’t enough time to fend off a similar threat to Earth. That’s why he’s suggesting NASA build a rocket to be kept in storage and deployed when we know the big one is on the way. If such a rocket were kept tuned up and could be ready to launch within a year, Nuth said, it “could mitigate the possibility of a sneaky asteroid coming in from a place that’s hard to observe, like from the sun.”
NASA had nothing to say about the possibility of non-astronomical “extinction-level” events.