Can we protect Earth from a devastating asteroid? - Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

Can we protect Earth from a devastating asteroid?

Posted: Updated:
NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

It came without warning: a house-sized asteroid hit Chelyabinsk, Russia, more than a year ago. The asteroid was traveling at nearly 40,000 miles an hour with more explosive energy than the nuclear bomb that exploded over Hiroshima. Those on the ground suffered injuries, mostly cuts, but no one died.

Why? In a word: luck.

"Had it hit much lower, no one who observed the event would have been alive to talk about it," said Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist and the host of "Cosmos" on FOX.

He called that a fortunate experiment, a wake-up call with minimal consequences.

"One of my favorite posters on the Internet says 'asteroids are nature's way of asking you how is that space program coming along?" he said.

Asteroids are rocks, sometimes containing metal, that orbit the sun. When they hit the ground, as the one in Russia did, they're called meteorites.

A meteorite that hit Greenland thousands of years ago weighs about 34 tons. By comparison, the meteorite that hit Russia last year weighed about 10,000 tons.

But hold on. What if there was a way to alter the tracks of asteroids and therefore eliminate the threat they pose to us here on earth?

NASA says there is. The agency calls it the asteroid redirect mission. The Obama administration has asked Congress for $133 million in the 2015 fiscal year to fund it. The goal is to find an asteroid near earth, lasso it, and eventually send humans to land on it and study it.

NASA also wants to prove that it can move an asteroid in case one is on a collision course with us.

"Rather than just run from it and buy water and toilet paper, you can say 'we can deflect this,'" Tyson said.

We asked Dr. Denton Ebel at the Museum of Natural History how that might be done.

"The gravity of our spacecraft would pull the object off its course to a different course," Ebel said. "In the long run, there's an asteroid with our name on it."

Those are ominous words that evoke the thriller "Armageddon."

But scientists say this isn't the stuff of science fiction. It's science fact.

"For the future of our wealth, our health, our security, our energy needs, if we ignore what space has to offer, we will doom ourselves to extinction here on earth," Tyson said.

While Tyson said that he wants NASA to pursue its asteroid ambitions, he acknowledged the technology may still be years away.

A cosmic event doomed the dinosaurs. It might take some big ideas, such as those NASA is studying, for us to avoid the same fate.

  • The Big IdeaMore>>

  • The Big Idea

    Can you fight a hurricane?

    Can you fight a hurricane?

    Monday, June 23 2014 10:24 PM EDT2014-06-24 02:24:11 GMT
    Superstorm Sandy turned this region upside down, destroying homes, obliterating businesses, ruining coastlines, and uprooting lives. Like so many, I watched as Sandy reduced our beach-side towns to rubble. In the two years that have passed, the focus has been on rebuilding getting people back on their feet. But what if you could fight Mother Nature?Hurricanes are fueled by the heat and energy in warm ocean water.
    Superstorm Sandy turned this region upside down, destroying homes, obliterating businesses, ruining coastlines, and uprooting lives. Like so many, I watched as Sandy reduced our beach-side towns to rubble. In the two years that have passed, the focus has been on rebuilding getting people back on their feet. But what if you could fight Mother Nature?Hurricanes are fueled by the heat and energy in warm ocean water.
  • The Big Idea

    3D printing revolutionizing medicine and more

    3D printing revolutionizing medicine and more

    Tuesday, May 20 2014 10:46 AM EDT2014-05-20 14:46:59 GMT
    Imagine it. Design it. Hold it in your hands. Technology first introduced in the 1980s is now open to a whole new market with 3D printers regularly available for less than $2,000. It's creating a wave of innovation and new competition among entrepreneurs like Jerry Castanos. He just opened 3D Heights, a full-service printing lab in Washington Heights. Among his top clients are med students at nearby Columbia University.
    Imagine it. Design it. Hold it in your hands. Technology first introduced in the 1980s is now open to a whole new market with 3D printers regularly available for less than $2,000. It's creating a wave of innovation and new competition among entrepreneurs like Jerry Castanos. He just opened 3D Heights, a full-service printing lab in Washington Heights. Among his top clients are med students at nearby Columbia University.
  • Transhumanism - Mankind 2.0

    Transhumanism - Mankind 2.0

    Wednesday, April 30 2014 10:18 PM EDT2014-05-01 02:18:03 GMT
    The merging of man and machine, creating a superhuman.  That concept is the driving force behind the recent Johnny Depp thriller "Transcendence." In the movie, the mind of Depp's character is uploaded onto a computer, but spirals rapidly out of control.  It's a Big Idea: a man backed with the power of a machine. Some call it transhumanism.
    The merging of man and machine, creating a superhuman.  That concept is the driving force behind the recent Johnny Depp thriller "Transcendence." In the movie, the mind of Depp's character is uploaded onto a computer, but spirals rapidly out of control.  It's a Big Idea: a man backed with the power of a machine. Some call it transhumanism.
  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • Suffolk County jail warden is highest-paid muni worker in NY

    Suffolk County jail warden is highest-paid muni worker in NY

    Thursday, July 24 2014 6:48 PM EDT2014-07-24 22:48:14 GMT
    New York State NewsNew York State News
    The Empire Center for Public Policy reports 1,803 local government employees outside of New York City have been paid more than Gov. Andrew Cuomo's $179,000 salary in the past year. The report from the fiscally conservative group for the year ending March 31 shows 47 of the 50 highest-paid municipal employees working for police departments or sheriff's offices and each taking home more than $250,000.
    The Empire Center for Public Policy reports 1,803 local government employees outside of New York City have been paid more than Gov. Andrew Cuomo's $179,000 salary in the past year. The report from the fiscally conservative group for the year ending March 31 shows 47 of the 50 highest-paid municipal employees working for police departments or sheriff's offices and each taking home more than $250,000.
  • Manhattan nursery school's sanitizing machine keeps air clean

    Manhattan nursery school's sanitizing machine keeps air clean

    Thursday, July 24 2014 6:47 PM EDT2014-07-24 22:47:17 GMT
    All of us feel the same way about "cooties": Eww. At the Goddard School on the Upper West Side, a high-tech machine is keeping "cooties" out of the classroom. "This is the latest and then most effective sanitization method available today," says Bill Swan, the owner of the Goddard School. He purchased the ZONO Sanitech for his school about six months ago. The machine is the size of a double refrigerator and uses oxygen to kill viruses and bacteria.
    All of us feel the same way about "cooties": Eww. At the Goddard School on the Upper West Side, a high-tech machine is keeping "cooties" out of the classroom. "This is the latest and then most effective sanitization method available today," says Bill Swan, the owner of the Goddard School. He purchased the ZONO Sanitech for his school about six months ago. The machine is the size of a double refrigerator and uses oxygen to kill viruses and bacteria.
  • NYC's pickup basketball games moving indoors

    NYC's pickup basketball games moving indoors

    Thursday, July 24 2014 5:54 PM EDT2014-07-24 21:54:18 GMT
    Believe it or not this, some say New York's outdoor basketball courts are a dying entity. Even Rucker Park in Harlem -- where Dr. J and countless others honed their skills -- used to be standing room only all times of the day. Now there's plenty of room to stand on most days.Basketball programs like one at Chelsea Piers are gaining popularity. That means the place to hoop it up for many appears to be indoors.
    Believe it or not this, some say New York's outdoor basketball courts are a dying entity. Even Rucker Park in Harlem -- where Dr. J and countless others honed their skills -- used to be standing room only all times of the day. Now there's plenty of room to stand on most days.Basketball programs like one at Chelsea Piers are gaining popularity. That means the place to hoop it up for many appears to be indoors.
Powered by WorldNow

KRIV FOX 26
4261 Southwest Freeway
Houston, TX 77027

Phone: (713) 479-2801
Fax: (713) 479-2859

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices