Throughout history, meteorites have impacted Earth – and there are many more out there headed our way. But before you panic about space rocks falling on your head, there is some good news: Soon, as we begin to conquer space, we will be able to stop them before they hit us.
Meteorites rarely hit the earth, and when they do, they are usually not large. Most of the time, they strike in remote locations where no-one lives. The last big strike happened in Russia in 2013 when a rock the size of a large house exploded only 18.5 miles above the ground with around 30 times greater power than the nuclear bomb that hit Hiroshima in 1945. No one was killed, but about 1000 people were hurt.
That’s peanuts compared to an explosion in the air above Tunguska, Siberia, deep in the wilderness of Russia, in 1908. 80 million trees were knocked down in an area three times greater than New York City.
But even that is small in comparison to an impact that scientists recently discovered thanks to evidence found under the ice in Greenland. A mile-wide rock hit the ice somewhere around 13,000 years ago and created a vast crater. At the time sea levels rose rapidly. Some scientists believe that the meteorite melted so much ice that the ocean rose by tens of feet.
We don’t know when, but eventually another gigantic rock will hit the earth – unless we stop it. The good news is, we probably can. In 2018, SpaceX became the first private company to launch a rocket into deep space. That’s just the beginning of a new era in space travel that will allow humans to colonize the moon, Mars, and beyond.
In December 2019, President Donald Trump created a new branch of the military: The United States Space Force. Its mission is to defend America from threats looming from space. What could be a more appropriate mission than to protect us all from meteorite strikes?
It wouldn’t even be so hard. The trick is to map rocks in space that are on a collision course with earth. The earlier we discover them, the easier they are to stop. If we can reach them far enough from our planet, all they need is a little nudge and they will be knocked out of course and miss us.
Sometimes a little push is all that is needed to solve big problems.