Preparing for and Surviving an Asteroid Impact

Preparing for and Surviving an Asteroid Impact

One motivation for settling on Mars is to form an Earth 2.0, so that Homo sapiens can survive a catastrophic asteroid or comet impact.  Some say it is also a way to survive a warming planet.  First of all, we can all survive a warming planet if we just reject the propaganda of greedy oilgarchs, and their paid-for politicians.

But rare asteroid strikes do happen, and it must be a lot easier to prepare for them and save many more lives on Earth than the massive and costly effort to settle or terraform Mars.  Every essential on Mars will have to be brought from Earth, or mined at great effort.  What we already have on Earth is air, water, food, energy, a protective atmosphere, a protective magnetic field, and an ozone layer.  We are already mining what we need, we have industries and manpower.   A vast amount of equipment and manufacturing will have to be created on Mars to make it independent of Earth.  Until that is done, a Mars colony will be even less supported than constructing much cheaper shelters on Earth.  Can’t you just see a worldwide revolt to a Mars settlement based on an “Earth First” platform?

Rather than dwell on methods for settling Mars, as many experts are examining, lets consider how to set up a survivable Earth program.  Many astronomers are setting up a program to spot and track dangerous objects in the solar system.  Maximizing that will give us the longest lead time to take action.  But what action?  If we can decide and plan last year preparations in advance, we can take action immediately when needed, based on long term well considered science, engineering, social and political considerations and agreements.

I am of course not knowledgeable of how these catastrophes can occur, but we should invest more effort in studying past ones, and in setting up advanced modeling of such threats.  We are all aware of some past extinction events as the Chixchulub meteor 63 million years ago, meteor crater Arizona, and the Siberian Tunguska meteor.  Some will affect the entire earth for years, and others will be more local.  

Presumably, better and longer term tracking will localize the impact center to arrange for evacuation well in advance.  Preparation for deflecting smaller meteors could allow for rapid response when needed.

The most serious events could cloud the earth and minimize solar energy for growing crops for a time of a few years.  Just as a well organized earth will have to prepare for large droughts as warming continues, so food storage can be created for short times.  Diets can be changed to get the most food per year to store, by cutting out foods that require the greatest amount of resource input.  Again, advance planning and agreements would allow immediate actions when needed.  Shelters could be established from available buildings, and they could be prepared for various scenarios when new buildings are built, if there is advance planning.

The usual science fiction plot that nobody except the world leaders are informed of a collision, because the people would panic, can be avoided if there was a long standing plan for survival for all.  

What could be done in a year or more of preparation is witnessed by the conversion of society in a war effort.  There are also millions of soldiers with a large amount of equipment and training around the world, that could be used for preparation for a collision.  Also, more needed first responders can be trained and equipped around the world.  The hugh US military budget, as large as the next seven put together, can be focused on preparation.  If worldwide fires are expected, brush, forests, housing, commercial and industries can be made more fire safe and fireproof.  Automakers can be diverted to ambulances and buses, and other industries to medical equipment.  Housing and building can be converted to shelters.

Sure, it is tough to get our Congress or Administration to accept science predictions.  It is also hard to get them to invest in a gamble, that has been  overly associated with science fiction.  But there are forward looking NGOs that do studies, and link worldwide.  There is the UN, and global science organizations.  Also, there are space oriented leaders of new industries, which is how we got started on this subject in the first place.

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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