This past year or so has been awful for a lot of reasons: a global pandemic, racial injustice, wildfires, a crazy active hurricane season and the list goes on -- but an asteroid crashing into Earth will not be the cherry on top of humanity’s punishment.
In a recent episode of the podcast “Space Curious,” planetary scientists helped us understand why this is.
They also explained how we know where asteroids are, and why we’re not all going to get squashed by one anytime soon.
In October, a NASA spacecraft called OSIRIS-REx collected a piece of a potentially hazardous asteroid to bring a sample back to Earth.
The U.S. space agency also has several other asteroid spacecraft missions in the works, and is not alone in its determination to better understand asteroids in order to deflect large space rocks -- but also to learn from these fossils of our solar system.
The spacecraft has been circling less than a mile from an asteroid called Bennu since December 2018, after launching nearly two years earlier from Cape Canaveral.
The 500-meter-wide asteroid was chosen for several reasons, explained Humberto Campins, a planetary scientist with the University of Central Florida, who is part of the OSIRIS-REx science team.