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A Look At The US System To Defend Against Asteroid Collisions




An artist's rendering of an asteroid flying be close to Earth.
An artist's rendering of an asteroid flying be close to Earth.
ESA/P.Carril

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Picture this: an asteroid is hurtling toward Earth, and the U.S. has limited time to stop it.

Yes, it’s the plot of the 1998 sci-fi film “Armageddon” (cue Aerosmith), but it also could actually happen – in real life – and author Gordon Dillow thinks we should be paying more attention to its inevitability.

It likely won’t be an asteroid big enough to wipe out human civilization, but maybe big enough to wipe out a whole city. And though the U.S. has been steadily investing more money into “planetary defense,” it currently makes up less than 1 percent of NASA’s budget.

So what is the country doing to prepare for a possible asteroid collision? Could the U.S. use nuclear means to neutralize an asteroid threat, à la Bruce Willis? And how many asteroids are currently on NASA’s radar?

Larry sits down with Paul Chodas, director of JPL’s Center for Near Earth Objects Studies (CNEOS), and author Gordon Dillow to hear the latest on NASA’s defense plan.

Guests:

Gordon Dillow, author of “Fire in the Sky: Cosmic Collisions, Killer Asteroids, and the Race to Defend Earth” (Scribner, June 2019); his piece “The Asteroid Peril Isn’t Science Fiction” was recently published in the Wall Street Journal

Paul Chodas, director of JPL’s Center for Near Earth Objects Studies (CNEOS) and designer of the hypothetical asteroid scenario studied at the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference held in the D.C. area in May