Asked by Lizzie Marks
At the moment, we have nothing substantial to protect us from meteoroids or asteroids that rain down on us and smash into our planet.
However, this does not mean that scientists are not working on something. After the meteor that exploded over Chelyabinsk in Russia on 15th February 2013, creating a shockwave that blew out windows and injured more than 1,200 people, officials are currently pushing to invest money to prepare for what could eventually be nuclear strikes to deflect or take out any approaching comets or asteroids.
However, it seems that the Chelyabinsk meteor, on the scale of things, was quite small, just 17 metres (56 feet) across. Scientists are more interested in larger lumps of rock that could cause more collateral damage.
Less than two weeks after the emergence of the Russian meteor, the Canadian space agency launched a microsatellite as part of Sentinel in the Sky, a programme which intends to provide an early-warning for space debris and other near-Earth objects.
Currently, NASA are funding University of Hawaii scientists to develop an Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System, also known as ATLAS, which could give us about a day’s warning in cases similar to Chelyabinsk, pinpointing the area of impact within a kilometre or two.
At the moment, NASA’s Spaceguard – a programme designed to identify threats – concentrates more on objects that are large enough to cause catastrophic destruction and unfortunately would not have uncovered the bus-sized lump of rock that smashed in through our atmosphere and broke up into fragments over Russia.
Image courtesy of NASA