NASA’s asteroid initiative request for information in June received more than 400 responses regarding ways to protect Earth from asteroids and how humans can explore them. NASA announced Sept. 4, 2013 that they have selected the top 96 asteroid initiative ideas. A public workshop is planned Sept. 30 - Oct. 2, 2013.
Ideas came in from all over the world and provided fresh information on ways to identify, relocate and capture near-Earth asteroids. Ways to study asteroids and how to respond to threats will enlighten the public about the scientific benefits, valuable resources and danger they pose to Earth.
Pointers on how to nudge an asteroid or slow its spin so that Earth is no longer in its path were received. Even ideas on how to collect samples from an asteroid and return them to Earth were submitted by universities, industry, international organizations and the public.
There are two parts to NASA’s asteroid initiative: to protect the planet and to send astronauts to explore an asteroid. It is a key component in NASA’s plan to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.
The Asteroid Initiative Idea Synthesis Workshop has as its purpose, “to further examine and foster a broad discussion on these newest ideas and help inform NASA’s planning activities.”
Asteroids are made of rock or metal composed mostly of iron and nickel. Their size ranges from a small boulder to a rock that is hundreds of miles in diameter. The smaller asteroids burn up when they enter Earth’s atmosphere and leave a trail of light that is known as a “shooting or falling star.”
Most asteroids are in the Main Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter. However, some pass close to Earth as they orbit the Sun. Big asteroids, like the one that impacted off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula 65 million years ago is believed to have led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.
While an asteroid may not impact Michigan anytime soon, there are currently 1,421 near-earth objects (NEOs) that are classified as Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs). This means they could come so close to Earth that they impact it; however it does not mean they “will” impact Earth.