Planetary Preservation: How We Prevent Asteroid Impacts

  1. Introduction
  2. Early Detection and Tracking
    1. Telescopes and Satellites
    2. Impact Risk Assessment
    3. International Cooperation
  3. Deflection Methods
    1. Kinetic Impactor
    2. Gravity Tractor
    3. Solar Sail
  4. Planetary Defense Funding
    1. The Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO)
    2. NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM)
    3. Private Sector Contributions
  5. Frequently Asked Questions
  6. Conclusion
  7. Additional Resources


Asteroids are rocky remnants of the early solar system that orbit the sun. These celestial objects range in size from small rocks to massive bodies that can be hundreds of kilometers in diameter and they can pose a significant risk to Earth. In fact, the impact of an asteroid could cause widespread devastation, as evidenced by the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Fortunately, scientists and researchers have been working on various methods to prevent asteroid impacts for years. In this article, we will explore these methods and how they work.

Early Detection and Tracking

A photorealistic depiction of an asteroid impact on a planet, showcasing the devastation wrought by the collision from every angle

Telescopes and Satellites

The first step in preventing an asteroid impact is detecting and tracking potentially hazardous asteroids. This is done with telescopes and satellites that scan the sky for new objects, record their positions and velocities, and track their orbits over time. NASA's Near-Earth Object Observations Program (NEOO) is responsible for finding and monitoring asteroids that could pose a risk to Earth. They use ground-based telescopes as well as space-based telescopes like the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) to detect and track asteroids.

Impact Risk Assessment

Once an asteroid has been detected and tracked, its trajectory is calculated to determine if it poses a potential impact threat to Earth. This is done using computer simulations and statistical analysis to assess the probability of impact. If an asteroid is identified as potentially hazardous, its orbit is closely monitored for any changes that could alter its path. Scientists can also use impact simulations to evaluate the potential damage that an asteroid could cause if it were to collide with Earth.

International Cooperation

Asteroid detection and tracking is a global effort. Many countries, including the United States, Russia, and China have their own asteroid detection programs and facilities. Additionally, international organizations like the International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN) and the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG) coordinate efforts between different agencies to improve asteroid detection and tracking capabilities worldwide.

Deflection Methods

An urgent photorealistic image of a massive asteroid looming in a deep black space, with a deflection mission spacecraft determinedly approaching it

Kinetic Impactor

A kinetic impactor is a spacecraft designed to collide with an asteroid in order to change its trajectory. The spacecraft could be equipped with a solid mass or a nuclear weapon that would create an explosion on impact, altering the asteroid's path. This technique has been tested by NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which is scheduled to launch in November 2021. The DART mission will target the asteroid Didymos and its small moon to test the effectiveness of the kinetic impact method.

Gravity Tractor

A gravity tractor is a spacecraft that uses its own gravitational pull to slowly tow an asteroid off course. The spacecraft would need to be relatively massive, so as to generate enough gravitational force to attract the asteroid towards it. The gravity tractor would need to remain close to the asteroid for an extended period of time in order to gradually change its trajectory. NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission tested this concept in 2012 by using two spacecraft to measure the gravity of the asteroid Vesta, providing insights into the feasibility of using gravity tractors for asteroid deflection.

Solar Sail

A solar sail is a spacecraft that uses the momentum of photons from the sun to propel itself through space. A solar sail could be used to deflect an asteroid by reflecting sunlight onto its surface, creating a small but steady force that would alter its trajectory over time. This technique has not yet been tested on an asteroid, but NASA has launched several missions that have tested solar sail technology, including the NanoSail-D2 mission in 2010.

Planetary Defense Funding

An ominous asteroid barrels towards Earth, its jagged surface casting eerie shadows

The Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO)

The Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) is responsible for leading and coordinating efforts to detect, track, and mitigate the effects of potentially hazardous asteroids. The PDCO is part of NASA's Planetary Science Division and works closely with other agencies and international partners to improve planetary defense capabilities worldwide. The office is also responsible for managing funding for asteroid detection and deflection projects.

NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM)

The Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) was a proposed NASA mission that would have sent a spacecraft to capture a small asteroid and redirect it into orbit around the moon. The mission was canceled in 2017, but it would have provided valuable data on asteroid composition and allowed researchers to test asteroid deflection technologies in a real-world environment.

Private Sector Contributions

Private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin are investing in their own asteroid detection and deflection capabilities. They are also working on developing new technologies for asteroid mining, which could help fund future planetary defense efforts.

Frequently Asked Questions

'A jagged asteroid, floating against the infinite blackness of space, its uneven surface captured in stunning detail
  • How likely is it that an asteroid will hit Earth?

    There are thousands of asteroids that orbit near Earth, but the probability of a significant impact in the near future is relatively low. However, even a small asteroid impact could cause significant damage, so it is important to continue efforts to detect and track potentially hazardous asteroids.

  • Can we destroy an asteroid before it hits Earth?

    Destroying an asteroid is not the most effective way to prevent an impact. Instead, the focus is on deflecting the asteroid off course using methods like kinetic impactors or gravity tractors. These methods require early detection and tracking of the asteroid in order to be effective.

  • Could asteroid mining contribute to planetary defense efforts?

    Asteroid mining could provide valuable resources that could be used to fund future planetary defense efforts. Additionally, mining operations could allow for close observation of asteroids, providing insights into their composition and behavior that could improve asteroid deflection techniques.

  • What happens if we don't prevent an asteroid impact?

    An asteroid impact could cause widespread devastation, depending on its size and location. The impact could trigger earthquakes, tsunamis, and wildfires, and release large amounts of dust and debris into the atmosphere, which could block out sunlight and cause long-term climate changes.

  • Are there any asteroids that are currently a major threat to Earth?

    NASA's NEOO program has identified several asteroids that could pose a significant risk to Earth in the future, but none of them are currently on a collision course with our planet.


In conclusion, preventing asteroid impacts requires a multi-faceted approach that includes early detection and tracking, deflection methods, and funding for planetary defense projects. While the risk of an impact is relatively low, the potential consequences are significant, and it is essential that we continue to invest in planetary defense efforts to protect our planet from potentially hazardous asteroids.

Thank you for reading this article on planetary preservation and potential asteroid impacts. We encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments section and to positively interact with Consider subscribing to our website for more information on asteroids and related topics.

Additional Resources

A breathtaking view of consolidated earthlike planets, each with unique asteroid impacts, captured from a vantage point above the asteroid belt

For more information on planetary defense and asteroid mitigation, visit:

  • NASA's Near-Earth Object Program:
  • The International Asteroid Warning Network:
  • The B612 Foundation:

If you want to discover more articles similar to Planetary Preservation: How We Prevent Asteroid Impacts, you can visit the Planetary Defense category.

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