Commemorate the Earth’s largest recorded asteroid impact today, International Asteroid Day.
In 1908, a powerful asteroid struck the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in a remote Siberian forest of Russia. The event leveled trees and destroyed forests across 770 square miles, which is equal to the size of three-quarters of the US state of Rhode Island. The impact threw people to the ground in a town 40 miles away.
The first step is to detect and track Near-Earth Objects that might, some orbit, hit us. NASA will be looking for asteroids as small as 50 meters across, but if we find one, what will we do? Suppose NASA tells us something like, there’s a 40% chance that a given rock will impact the Earth in 75 years? If we get over 10 years warning, maybe that’s enough time to get our act together.
The chance of a major impact is small, but the consequences are huge, so how much should we spend? Maybe we won’t do much of anything for a long time. We accept low frequency/high consequence risks all the time. Ask anyone living on a major earthquake fault or at the base of a volcano. Taking the risk usually pays off. But a really big impact risks more than one island or coastline. It’s hard for us to come together by the millions to address such a thing, but maybe that’s what visionaries are for. Remember the dinosaurs.