Smaller Asteroids a Bigger Threat Than Presumed

Smaller Asteroids a Bigger Threat Than Presumed

This is an editorial piece that mainly reflects the views of the author.

In February 2013 an asteroid exploded over the Russian city ‘Chelyabinsk’, and showed another case of the potential threat of astronomical objects – an area covered by some but certainly not all Pirate Parties.

Many videos over the Internet showed how the twenty meter wide rock went crashing through Earth’s atmosphere. It was only through pure luck that no one was killed in this catastrophe. The meteorite caused several thousands of damaged buildings and around one and a half thousand injured people.

A new report, that has now been published in the scientific journal Nature, has investigated the situation closer. The report states, as its’  conclusion, that these types of meteorite impacts seem to be a bigger threat than previously imagined.

Chelyabinsk

Public domain by NASA.

Scientists have, in the past, mainly investigated larger asteroids (such as the one that exploded over Tunguska in the early 20th century). In that case the collision took place in an unpopulated zone – if the same asteroid would have exploded over Paris or Berlin, we would have seen millions of dead citizens in seconds and possibly an entire city razed to the ground.

The Risks of a Moderate Strike

Space rocks large enough to destroy entire cities are indeed rare, and thanks to global space programmes we currently have a good picture of where they are in relation to Earth. We can therefore see them well beforehand, and at least partly prepare by evacuation or other measures.

A large problem, that was discovered in the case of ‘Chelyabinsk’ (and explained further in Nature), are these smaller collisions, which would not destroy entire cities but could certainly cause both human casualties and harm towards buildings and infrastructure. In the case of ‘Chelyabinsk’, these costs from the meteorite collision are estimated at around €30 million.

Necessity has always been the mother of innovation – fire, weapons, houses, and thousands of other innovations have all come from our civilisation’s constant striving to survive in a world that is constantly trying to kill us. As the world becomes more complex, this also holds true for our threats. It is easy to see an overnight threat like that of a cold night, thus requiring protecting yourself from the cold through e.g. setting up a tent. It is harder to see the risk of a meteor strike destroying vital infrastructure and lives, that might require a need to develop a space programme to protect yourself before it happens.

It is time for our civilisation to grow up and start realising the threats we actually have before us, and to start preparing against them. It is an undeniable fact that more strikes, like the one over ‘Chelyabinsk’, will come. The question is what we will do to prepare ourselves. To develop a modern and effective space programme should be on the agenda of any Pirate Party, for the sake of innovation and safety alike.

Featured image is public domain by NASA.

 

Anton Nordenfur

About Anton Nordenfur

I'm party organiser for the Swedish Pirate Party, and work as a freelancing writer and translator. I'm primarily interested in research politics and LGBTQ rights, and blog in Swedish over at antonnordenfur.com.

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