More long-term planning is needed due to the risk of devastating asteroid impacts. It is not enough to think in terms of annual or biennial planning periods, even if the budget for many publicly funded institutions is defined this way. The European Space Agency (ESA) reached this conclusion after an exercise in which space agencies and disaster relief workers conducted the hypothetical scenario of an asteroid collision last week.
The illusory effect cannot be prevented, also because the hypothetical asteroid cannot be detected early enough. More sensitive detectors like the NEOSM mission or the Robin Observatory (LSST) can do this, but they are inactive.
There is no defense possible in the simulation game
The “Planetary Defense Conference 2021” was the fifth to be held as part of the biennial conference of the same name. It only happened this year due to the Corona pandemic. At the start of the exercise, the participants only knew that this year’s fictional asteroid had just been discovered and could hit Earth as early as October. In the course of the four-day exercise, the probability increased and an effect appeared in the Czech-German-Austrian border area. It was discovered too late for a possible countermeasure. If the space probe is ready for defense, it will have to be equipped with a nuclear warhead in order to be able to detonate it despite the short warning time – it is too late to convert. In the end, the area can only be cleared in time in the simulation game.
The good news is we probably all know really big asteroids like the ones that wiped out the dinosaurs. The European Space Agency now confirms. Detectors like the NEOSM Space Telescope planned for 2025 or the Vera C. Rubin Observatory should spot smaller devices like the imaginary ones from the simulation game – which were about 100 meters in diameter. These tools would have detected virtual asteroids for the exercise as early as 2014 and gave officials on Earth more than seven years of warning. During this time one could not only have prepared a destruction, but also be able to transform, with which such a catastrophic impact could have been prevented. You can still read this year’s simulation game track.