Are asteroids humanity’s ‘greatest challenge’?
by Mariëtte Le Roux
Throughout its 4.5-billion-year history, Earth has been repeatedly pummelled by space rocks that have caused anything from an innocuous splash in the ocean to species annihilation.
When the next big impact will be, nobody knows.
But the pressure is on to predict—and intercept—its arrival.
“Sooner or later we will get… a minor or major impact,” Rolf Densing, who heads the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, told AFP ahead of International Asteroid Day on Friday.
It may not happen in our lifetime, he said, but “the risk that Earth will get hit in a devastating event one day is very high.”
For now, there is little we can do.
And yet, the first-ever mission to crash a probe into a small space rock to alter its trajectory suffered a major setback when European ministers declined in December to fund part of the project.