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‘If It Happens, We All Are Extinct’: Asteroid Hitting Earth Real Possibility, Must Prepare, Says ISRO Chief to News18 – News18

‘If It Happens, We All Are Extinct’: Asteroid Hitting Earth Real Possibility, Must Prepare, Says ISRO Chief to News18 – News18


Space agencies across the world are working towards building planetary defence capabilities to protect Earth from asteroids and ISRO too is keen on taking responsibility in this regard. Representational image/AP

Apophis, a near-Earth asteroid, and termed the most hazardous of the present era with a diameter of 370 metres will fly by us on April 13, 2029, and again in 2036. As a leading space nation, India too needs to take responsibility for protecting Earth from asteroids, said Dr S Somanath

A huge air blast from an asteroid flattened about 2,200 square kilometres of dense forest, destroying nearly 80 million trees in Tunguska, a remote location in Siberia on June 30, 1908. Apophis, a near-Earth asteroid, and termed the most hazardous of the present era with a diameter of 370 metres will fly by us on April 13, 2029, and again in 2036. The impact of an asteroid 10 km or bigger is regarded as an extinction-scale event, causing most of the species to perish due to its aftermath. Such an impact is hypothesised to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. Space agencies across the world are working towards building planetary defence capabilities to protect Earth from asteroids and ISRO too is keen on taking responsibility in this regard.

“Our lifespan is 70-80 years and we don’t see such catastrophe in our lifetime, so we take it for granted that these are not likely. If you look at the history of the world and universe, these events are frequent…approach of an asteroid towards planets and its impact. I have watched an asteroid hitting Jupiter, Shoemaker-Levy hitting. If such an event happens on Earth, we all are extinct,” said ISRO chief S Somanath. “These are real possibilities. We must prepare ourselves. We don’t want it to happen to Mother Earth. We want humanity and all life forms to live here. But we can’t stop it. We have to find alternatives to it. So, we have a method by which we can deflect it. We can detect near-Earth approach and take it away and sometimes it might be impossible also. So, technology needs to be developed, prediction capabilities, ability to send heavier props up there to deflect it, observation improvement and joint working with other nations for a protocol.”

In recent years, several scientific missions for asteroid exploration and sample return have significantly improved the understanding of the asteroids. The recent successful demonstration of kinetic impactor technology for asteroid deflection by the DART mission has further spurred global interest in this field. ISRO says it has also initiated focussed activities towards planetary defence.

“It will take shape in the days to come. When the threat becomes real, humanity will get together and work on it. As a leading space nation, we need to take responsibility. It’s not just for India alone, it’s for the whole world that we need to take the onus on us to prepare and develop technical capability, programming capability to do that and ability to work with other agencies,” said the ISRO chief.

On World Asteroid Day (June 30), ISRO also hosted a workshop where leading experts from space agencies like JAXA and ESA delivered technical talks on the Hayabusa-2 asteroid mission, ongoing planetary defence and asteroid monitoring activities undertaken by ESA, and the role of organisations like IAWN (International Asteroid Warning Network) and SMPAG (Space Mission Planning Advisory Group) in dealing with asteroid impact threats.

“Experiments are on to find out if an asteroid is expected to hit within a year and if we are ready to defend,” said Anil Kumar, Associate Director, ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC).



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