The scenario of a huge asteroid hurtling towards our planet at 31,000 miles per hour is meant to be as realistic as possible and has been devised by a division of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory which has been tasked with studying near-earth objects (NEOs).
Congress has directed NASA to be able to detect and track 90% of near-Earth objects that are 460 feet or bigger. And, like a real-life situation, those involved don't know how it will evolve from one day to the next, and must make plans based on the daily updates they are given. Some efforts from the NASA to defend the Earth against asteroids include the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, which is set to begin in June 2021, and it even includes help from the SpaceX.
The chief administrator of the space agency Jim Bridenstine believes that a civilization-threatening space rock could crash into Earth in our lifetimes.
The Centre for Near Earth Object Studies monitors NEOs that come within 50 million kilometres of the planet and what to do if it happens. However, as observations continue, the likelihood of an impact in 2027 increases. While only a simulation, officials say the scenario is typical of information that might be released by the UN-sanctioned International Asteroid Warning Network, IAWN, for such an event. In a statement made at the annual Planetary Defense Conference on Monday, Bridenstine quoted a paper estimating that a Chelyabinsk-type event could happen once every sixty years.
Known as the Chelyabinsk Event, it was the largest known meteor strike in over a century and it injured more than 1,600 people. But there's also a chance that an asteroid could hit a major city, and Bridenstine thinks that chance is large enough to worry about. Sometimes the heroes have a plan to avert disaster, and sometimes they don't, but you can bet that if (more like when) a rogue space rock eventually threatens humans lives, NASA will be on top of it. But this task is hard to accomplish, because the time needed for this job is around three decades, so until then, we are not protected.
"One of the reasons we have to take this seriously is the giggle factor", he said. And keep an eye out on the ESA Facebook page, for live-stream videos straight from the Planetary Defense Conference, the next of which will be on 2 May, 2019 at around mid-afternoon European time.