If you ask a scientist for how he thinks the world could end, he’ll bet on several scenarios including a large asteroid like the Chicxulub Impactor that wiped out the dinosaurs. Events like a nuclear war, a pandemic, or a black hole engulfing our planet are also feasible scenarios.
However, let’s put it this way: we had nuclear wars and pandemics before, and they didn’t wipe out all life forms. Thee ongoing COVID-19 pandemic won’t due it, either. As for a black hole, astronomers didn’t detect one that’s located dangerously close to us. Therefore, we should worry the most about a large asteroid or comet.
DART and Lucy will enter the spotlight
After NASA declared that its main concern was the Mars 2020 mission, having the Perseverance rover sent to the Red Planet for searching for signs of alien life existing in the past, there are new priorities now. The American space agency aims to take the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) and Lucy missions a lot more seriously. They’re both scheduled to launch next year.
Lori Glaze, who is director of NASA’s planetary science division, supported the idea by saying:
“These are very high priority as we’re looking at the various COVID impacts to our portfolio,”
“We’re working very hard to keep those teams as safe as possible but, where we have limited resources and limited facilities, we’re trying to prioritize those missions.”
DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) is a planetary defense mission, and you might have already guessed why it’s called that way. Its goal is to test a technique of deflecting space rocks by doing so with a moon of the Didymos asteroid. As it will be launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, DART will have to collide with the little space rock to see if it can use the method at much larger scales.
As for Lucy, this mission aims to perform a flyby on several Trojan asteroids that are located in the same orbit around the Sun as Jupiter. The mission will begin in October 2021 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5.
In every year, our planet is hit by around 6100 meteors that are large enough to reach the ground, so there’s no telling when a second Chicxulub impactor might pay us an unwanted visit.