Shields Up: Current Measures For Asteroid Defense

  1. Introduction
  2. Planetary Defense Strategies
    1. Near-earth object (neo) observation
    2. Deflection strategies
    3. Impact mitigation
  3. Current Asteroid Defense Efforts
    1. The Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO)
    2. The European Space Agency’s HERA Mission
  4. Frequently Asked Questions
  5. Conclusion
  6. Additional Resources


As we explore more of space, we are becoming increasingly aware of the threat posed by asteroids. These space rocks can cause massive devastation if they collide with Earth, as we saw in the case of the Chelyabinsk meteor in Russia in 2013. In order to prevent such occurrences, researchers have been working on various ways to defend against asteroid impacts. This article will explore some of the current measures that are being taken to protect our planet from these potential threats.

Planetary Defense Strategies

A breathtaking photorealistic image captures the collision of a spaceship's massive energy beam and an incoming asteroid

Near-earth object (neo) observation

In order to protect Earth from an asteroid impact, the first step is to detect any potential threats well in advance. This is where near-earth object (NEO) observation comes into play. By tracking asteroids and other objects in our solar system, researchers can predict their movements and determine whether they pose a risk to our planet. There are currently several ground-based observatories and telescopes in operation, including the Pan-STARRS and Catalina Sky Survey, which are dedicated to NEO observation.

Deflection strategies

Once a potentially hazardous asteroid has been identified, the next step is to deflect it from its collision course with Earth. There are several proposed deflection strategies, such as kinetic impactors, gravity tractors, and nuclear explosions.

  • Kinetic Impactors: This method involves sending a spacecraft to collide with the asteroid at high speed, thereby changing its trajectory. The most well-known example of this strategy was the Deep Impact mission in 2005, which successfully altered the course of comet Tempel 1.
  • Gravity Tractors: This technique involves parking a spacecraft near the asteroid and using its gravity to gently nudge it off course. This method is still in the theoretical phase, but it has the advantage of not requiring any physical contact with the asteroid.
  • Nuclear Explosions: This method involves detonating a nuclear bomb near the asteroid, which would vaporize part of its surface and create a force that would alter its trajectory. Although this strategy has been discussed, it is not currently considered a viable option due to the potential risks and ethical concerns associated with nuclear weapons.

Impact mitigation

If all else fails and an asteroid is heading towards Earth with little warning, impact mitigation techniques can be used to reduce the damage caused by the impact. These strategies involve preparing for the worst-case scenario, such as evacuating vulnerable areas and building structures that can withstand a certain amount of impact force.

Current Asteroid Defense Efforts

A highly detailed photorealistic image of asteroid defense measures in action

The Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO)

The PDCO is a division of NASA that is responsible for coordinating efforts related to asteroid detection and deflection. Their primary goal is to detect any potentially hazardous objects as early as possible and work with international partners to develop deflection strategies. They also coordinate simulations and exercises to prepare for potential asteroid impacts. As part of their efforts, NASA launched an asteroid deflection demonstration mission called DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) in 2021. The mission aims to test the kinetic impactor strategy on the asteroid Dimorphos in 2022.

The European Space Agency’s HERA Mission

The HERA (Human Exploration Research Analog) mission is another proposed asteroid deflection demonstration, led by the European Space Agency (ESA). This mission aims to send a spacecraft to study the Didymos asteroid system and test the kinetic impactor strategy. It is currently scheduled for launch in 2024 and will arrive at the asteroid in 2026.

Frequently Asked Questions

A stunningly detailed cosmic portrait captures a group of astronauts in front of a massive asteroid amidst an array of space debris; against a backdrop of netherworld darkness and celestial brilliance, Earth stands out, encircled by wispy clouds, reflecting radiant sunlight
  • What is a NEO?

    A Near-Earth Object (NEO) is any asteroid or comet whose orbit brings it within about 1.3 astronomical units (AU) of the Sun and within 0.3 AU of Earth's orbit.

  • What was the Deep Impact mission?

    The Deep Impact mission was a NASA spacecraft that was launched in 2005 with the goal of studying comet Tempel 1. As part of the mission, it successfully altered the course of the comet by deploying a kinetic impactor.

  • Why aren't nuclear explosions considered a viable option for asteroid deflection?

    Although nuclear explosions have been discussed as a potential asteroid defense strategy, they are not currently considered a viable option due to the potential risks and ethical concerns associated with their use.

  • What is the DART mission?

    The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is a NASA mission that aims to test the kinetic impactor strategy on the asteroid Dimorphos in 2022.

  • When is the HERA mission scheduled to launch?

    The HERA mission is currently scheduled to launch in 2024.


As the threats posed by asteroids become increasingly apparent, researchers are working tirelessly to develop methods for deflecting or mitigating the impact of these space rocks. With agencies such as NASA and the ESA leading the way, we can be confident that we are making progress towards protecting our planet from potential asteroid impacts. But there is still much work to be done, and it is important that we continue to fund and support these efforts in the years to come.

If you have any thoughts or questions about asteroid defense strategies, be sure to share them in the comments below. And don't forget to subscribe to for more fascinating asteroid-related content.

Additional Resources

Asteroid Approaching Earth: Stark image of a massive asteroid with jagged tail, heading straight for impact

1. NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office:

2. European Space Agency's HERA Mission:

3. Catalina Sky Survey:

4. Pan-STARRS:

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