An asteroid caused the dinosaurs to go extinct 66 million years ago, and a similar asteroid could hit the Earth again. The level of damage caused by an asteroid depends on its size and speed. Asteroid risk is currently being managed by NASA and other organizations as they map objects on course to approach Earth in the next several decades and develop technology for defending Earth from asteroids. Although good progress is being made in this area, it is an existential threat because of the possibility for an asteroid to go undetected and because of the limitations of current asteroid defence technology.
- A large and fast enough asteroid could go undetected, resulting in human extinction
- Our untested asteroid defence strategies could fail, resulting in human extinction
- A medium asteroid could cause significant damage
- NASA has mapped 95% of the largest near Earth objects and has found no foreseeable threats
- HOWEVER, in July 2017 asteroid 2017 001 was not noticed until 2 days after it passed Earth. It was large enough to injure thousands of people and cause significant damage to infrastructure.
- NASA and the European Space Agency have partnered to test defensive technology and launch two spacecrafts in 2020 and 2021, testing their potential to shift asteroids off course
- Researchers are studying a variety of other asteroid defense strategies
- The UN declared June 30th as International Asteroid Day to raise awareness about the danger of asteroids