AN ASTEROID is “100 percent” certain to strike Earth even if we cannot predict when or where it will happen, according to a space expert who told Express.co.uk it is a “matter of life and death”.
Lembit Öpik, the Chairman of Parliament for the space nation Asgardia, told Express.co.uk protecting Earth from asteroids is one of Asgardia’s key objectives.
Mr Öpik said: “It’s a matter of life and death. The chance of an impact is 100 percent, you just don’t know when.”
The former British politician, who was an MP for Montgomeryshire in Wales between 1998 and 2010, campaigned in Parliament for more awareness of spaceborne threats.
In 1999, he called on the Government to annually invest between £500,000 and £1million on tracking asteroids.
Then in the year 2000, Mr Öpik convinced the Government to initiate the Near-Earth Object Task Group.
The group published a report in September 2000, which called for more surveys of both distant and nearby asteroids – so-called Near-Earth Objects (NEOs).
Even Mr Öpik’s grandfather was an astronomer whose work focused on the many asteroids zipping past Earth.
Now, Mr Öpik works with the world’s first space nation to prepare Earth for what he believes is an unavoidable danger from space.
Mr Öpik said: “This happens very rarely, but when it happens it’s catastrophic and it will wipe out between 70 and 95 percent of all life. That’s what seems to have happened before.
“Asgardia, as one of its key mission objectives, is dedicated to creating a kind of space guard initiative to protect our home planet, as we would call it, from cosmic threats.”
Asgardia, or the Space Kingdom of Asgardia, is the world’s first micronation founded in 2016 with the launch of a satellite into Earth orbit.
The space nation aims to establish a permanent human presence in space by building outposts and conceiving the first off-world child.
Mr Öpik previously told Express.co.uk Asgardia hopes to put humans in space in the next 25 years.
But to achieve these lofty goals, Asgardia’s scientists need to prove spacefaring humans can be kept safe from threats like asteroids.
Asteroids are not the only threat lurking in space, Mr Öpik argued, but they are the most dangerous and easiest to foresee.
Thankfully, leading space agencies like NASA do not expect any major impact in the foreseeable future.
The US space agency said: “Experts estimate that an impact of an object the size of the one that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013 – approximately 55ft – takes place once or twice a century.
“Impacts of larger objects are expected to be far less frequent – on the scale of centuries to millennia.
“However, given the current incompleteness of the NEO catalogue, an unpredicted impact – such as the Chelyabinsk event – could occur at any time.”
At the start of 2019, NASA said the number of discovered NEOs stood at more than 19,000 and roughly 30 new space rocks are discovered each week.
How often do asteroids hit the Earth?
According to Bruce Betts of The Planetary Society, dangerous asteroids do not hit Earth very often but they do strike.
On average, hundreds of tonnes of space dust and orbital debris safely pelt the Earth’s atmosphere on a daily basis.
The larger the space rock, the less frequently it hits the planet.
An asteroid about 65.6ft (20m) across, strikes the Earth once or twice a century.
Asteroids as big as the Chicxulub dinosaur killer strikes our home planet on the scale of 100 million years.
NASA closely monitoring asteroid size of world’s tallest building hurtling near Earth
NASA is “closely watching” an asteroid as big as Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, dubbed 2000 QW7, which is travelling at a speed of 23,000km/h.
“NASA’s 2000 QW7 is the size of the world’s tallest building, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, and it’s travelling at speeds of more than 23,000 km/h.
“It will miss Earth by a mere 5.4million km.”
2000 QW7 is estimated to be between 290 meters and 650m in diameter.
NASA’s Centre for Near-Earth Object Studies revealed 2000 QW7 is travelling at a speed of about 14,4000 miles per hour and will pass 3.3 million miles from Earth.
NASA said in astronomical terms it is going to be a “close call”.
Astronomers don’t believe asteroid 2000 QW7 poses any danger or is likely to strike the planet but NASA’s Centre for Near-Earth Object Studies will continue tracking it.
There is currently an approximate 3,312,944 mile distance between 2000 QW7 and Earth.
NASA estimated the threat level for 2000 QW7 as moderate, so a hit is still possible but not likely this year.
Asteroid 2000 QW7 was first discovered by NASA on August 8, 2000.
2000 QW7’s closest approach to Earth is expected to occur on September 14 around 23:54 UTC.
Danica Remy, president of the nonprofit organisation B612 Foundation, works to protect the planet from asteroids.
She previously said: “It’s 100 percent certain that we’re going to get hit, but we’re not 100 percent certain when.” She added: “The real issue is that we need to have an inventory of all the asteroids.”
Fortunately, NASA has not yet discovered such an asteroid, estimating that at least 95 percent of asteroids 1km (3,280 feet) or larger have been recorded, with none posing a threat to the planet.
Space rocks as large as 2000 QW7, however, would wipe out an entire city and wreak widespread destruction in a direct collision, according to NASA.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has previously warned about the dangers of an asteroid collision.
While no collision is predicted over the next 100 years he warned it couldn’t be completely ruled out.
NASA’s Mr Bridenstine commented: “We have to make sure that people understand that this is not about Hollywood, it’s not about the movies.
“This is about ultimately protecting the only planet we know, right now, to host life – and that is the planet Earth.”
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