How dangerous are near-Earth asteroids? 5 key questions answered.

On Feb. 15, asteroid 2012 DA14, discovered a year ago, cleared Earth by a scant 17,200 miles. The same day, a smaller, unrelated asteroid that no one saw coming exploded 12 to 15 miles above Russia’s Chelyabinsk region. Events that day highlight the risk that near-Earth objects (NEOs) can pose – although to some extent, humans can counter them.

5. What are other options for averting a collision?

One involves a space tug, which would use the mutual gravitational attraction between it and an asteroid to slowly change the NEO’s velocity so that it reaches the predicted collision point too early or too late. But it’s a decades-long process that would be effective only for asteroids no larger than about 300 feet across, scientists say.

Another approach involves the use of impactors, launched from a nearby spacecraft to slow or speed the NEO’s pace. NASA and the European Space Agency are studying the possibility of a demonstration mission dubbed AIDA (Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment). This would involve sending a spacecraft with an impactor to a binary asteroid, Didymos. The impactor would strike the smaller of the two asteroids, and the spacecraft would then measure the object’s velocity.

As a last resort, researchers have considered detonating a nuclear device to deflect objects up to a couple of miles across. For anything larger, no feasible defense is currently available, researchers say.

5 of 5

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.