Standing Guard In The Cosmos: Tools For Asteroid Defense

  1. Introduction
  2. The Importance of Early Detection
    1. Near-Earth Object Observations
    2. Space-Based Telescopes
  3. Deflection Techniques
    1. Kinetic Impactor
    2. Gravity Tractor
    3. Laser Bees
  4. Decision-Making Process
    1. NEO Impact Hazard Scale
    2. International Asteroid Warning Network
    3. Planetary Defense Coordination Office
  5. Frequently Asked Questions
  6. Conclusion
  7. Additional Resources


Asteroids, also known as minor planets, are rocky and metallic objects that orbit the sun. They range in size from small boulders to 590 miles (940 kilometers) in diameter, such as Ceres, the largest known asteroid in the Solar System. While most asteroids pose no threat to Earth, some could potentially collide with our planet. Therefore, it is essential to study and develop tools for asteroid defense.

The Importance of Early Detection

An intense scene of a photorealistic image depicts an asteroid defense team in red and blue uniforms, standing on a platform gazing out at a colossal asteroid hurtling towards Earth

Near-Earth Object Observations

NASA's Near-Earth Object Observations Program detects, tracks, and characterizes asteroids and comets approaching Earth's vicinity. The program uses ground-based telescopes and networks of sensors, such as the Sentry system, to identify potential impactors. Sentry analyzes asteroid data and estimates their likelihood of collision with Earth over the next century.

Space-Based Telescopes

Some asteroids are difficult to detect from Earth due to their small sizes or dark surfaces. Thus, space-based telescopes offer a unique advantage in studying and tracking asteroids. NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission successfully completed its principal mission in 2011 but has since been used to find and track near-Earth asteroids. Additionally, the upcoming Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, set to launch in the mid-2020s, will focus on searching for near-Earth asteroids.

Deflection Techniques

A photorealistic image of a highly detailed asteroid heading straight towards Earth, its fiery surface illuminating the sky, with a deflection satellite similar to NASA's DART spacecraft intercepting it, resulting in a successful 90%+ deflection, saving the planet from harm, and altering the asteroid's trajectory

Kinetic Impactor

A kinetic impactor is a spacecraft that collides with an asteroid to alter its course. NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, scheduled to launch in 2021, will demonstrate the kinetic impactor concept by targeting the moon of the asteroid Didymos. The impact should change the moon's orbit and provide valuable information on the effectiveness of this technique.

Gravity Tractor

A gravity tractor is a spacecraft that approaches an asteroid and uses its gravitational pull to alter the asteroid's course. The mass of the spacecraft creates a slight attraction that nudges the asteroid away from its collision course. NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Scout (NEA Scout) mission will demonstrate the feasibility of this approach in the mid-2020s.

Laser Bees

The laser bees concept involves using several small spacecraft equipped with lasers to evaporate the surface material of an asteroid, creating a thrust that alters the asteroid's trajectory. The European Space Agency's Hera mission, set to launch in 2024, will test this technology by deploying a CubeSat to a binary asteroid system.

Decision-Making Process

An astronaut evaluates risk in high-pressure space missions, staring intently at screens filled with technical symbols and stats

NEO Impact Hazard Scale

The Near-Earth Object Impact Hazard Scale ranks potential asteroid impacts on Earth based on their kinetic energy, size, and probability of impact. The scale ranges from zero (no likelihood of global consequences) to ten (catastrophic global effects). The classification system helps emergency managers prepare for potential asteroid collisions.

International Asteroid Warning Network

The International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN) is a global collaboration of space agencies, observatories, and universities that assesses and communicates the impact risk of newly discovered asteroids. IAWN aims to provide timely warnings of potential asteroid impacts and promote international cooperation in planetary defense.

Planetary Defense Coordination Office

The Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) serves as NASA's lead organization for planetary defense. PDCO coordinates detection and tracking efforts, assesses the impact risk of newly discovered asteroids, and plans and conducts emergency response exercises. The office also works with international partners to develop and test deflection techniques.

Frequently Asked Questions

A photorealistic depiction of an advanced asteroid defense platform floating in space's endless sea, surrounded by asteroids and meteor showers
  • How likely is an asteroid impact on Earth?

    Most asteroids pose no threat to Earth, and the likelihood of a catastrophic impact is low. However, it is essential to detect and track potentially hazardous asteroids and develop tools for planetary defense.

  • Does NASA have a plan in case of an asteroid impact?

    Yes, NASA has a planetary defense strategy that involves early detection, impact risk assessment, and deflection techniques, if necessary. The agency also conducts emergency response exercises with international partners.

  • Are there any missions scheduled to test asteroid deflection techniques?

    Yes, NASA's DART mission will demonstrate the kinetic impactor technique in 2021, and the European Space Agency's Hera mission will test the laser bees concept in 2024.

  • How accurate are impact risk assessments?

    Impact risk assessments involve uncertainties due to factors such as incomplete observations and uncertain properties of the asteroid. However, the assessments are continually improving through advanced modeling and observational techniques.

  • What can individuals do to contribute to asteroid defense?

    Individuals can support asteroid research and planetary defense efforts by advocating for funding, volunteering for citizen science projects, and spreading awareness of the importance of planetary defense.


Early detection and deflection techniques are crucial tools in planetary defense against potential asteroid impacts. NASA and international partners continuously work to improve asteroid detection and tracking, assess impact risks accurately, and develop and test deflection techniques. As individuals, we can support asteroid research and planetary defense efforts and spread awareness of the importance of protecting our planet from space hazards.

Additional Resources

A mesmerizing spacecraft protects against the vast and dangerous asteroids, hovering through the dark cosmos with precision

For more information on asteroid detection, tracking, and deflection, please visit:

If you want to discover more articles similar to Standing Guard In The Cosmos: Tools For Asteroid Defense, you can visit the Planetary Defense category.

Articulos relacionados:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Go up

This site uses cookies to enhance your browsing experience. By clicking Accept, you consent to the use of all cookies. For more information or to adjust your preferences, visit our Cookie Policy.