Scientists reveal new way to stop giant asteroids obliterating Earth

“Data show that crashing a sacrificial spacecraft into an asteroid would be powerful enough to avoid almost all rocks hitting Earth, averting catastrophe.
Only asteroids wider than a kilometre would need a nuclear detonation to shift them off course, scientists now believe.

A rock this big is expected to hit our planet once every 700,000 years and would create a crater as big as Manchester. An impact of this size would cause global devastation and the possible collapse of civilisation, experts say.

Astronomers believe around 900 “near Earth objects” – defined as within 120 million miles of our sun – are more than one kilometre wide, and they have identified 95 per cent of them.

Nuclear warheads have long been, and continue to be, part of planetary defence plans, but only as a last resort.

A White House document recently said that the US would continue to study when a nuclear explosive device would be needed to prevent an asteroid apocalypse.”

NASA’s latest moon mission is the dawn of a new space age

“Eventually, NASA plans to turn the moon into a pit stop on a much more ambitious journey: a human mission to Mars. Right now, it seems like that could happen sometime in the late 2030s. But while many of these plans are still far out, it’s clear that the Artemis program is far more than a repeat of the Apollo program.”

Why the new James Webb Space Telescope images are such a big deal

“What makes this image so mind-blowing is how small it is, and how large it is, at the same time.

It’s small in the sense that this image represents only a teensy tiny portion of the night sky. Imagine you are holding out a grain of sand at arm’s length. The area of sky that grain covers — that’s the size of the area captured in the above image.

But it’s huge in the sense that nearly every object in this image is a galaxy (besides the bright spiky starbursts, which are stars in the foreground). Think about that: In every pinprick of sky, there are thousands and thousands of galaxies, at least.”

How Americans Feel About Space

“In a July 2021 poll from YouGov/The Economist, a majority of Americans said the U.S. should send astronauts to the moon and Mars. This was true across political parties, with slim majorities for Democrats, Republicans and independents.

Most Americans are on the same page about funding space exploration, too. About a third of Democrats, Republicans and independents said government funding of space exploration should be kept the same, and about 40 percent of each group said funding should be increased.”

If aliens are calling, let it go to voicemail

“In a 2012 paper, the Russian transhumanist Alexey Turchin described what he called “global catastrophic risks of finding an extraterrestrial AI message” during the search for intelligent life. The scenario unfolds similarly to the plot of A for Andromeda. An alien civilization creates a signal beacon in space of clearly non-natural origin that draws our attention. A nearby radio transmitter sends a message containing instructions for how to build an impossibly advanced computer that could create an alien AI.

The result is a phishing attempt on a cosmic scale. Just like a malware attack that takes over a user’s computer, the advanced alien AI could quickly take over the Earth’s infrastructure — and us with it. (Others in the broader existential risk community have raised similar concerns that hostile aliens could target us with malicious information.)

What can we do to protect ourselves? Well, we could simply choose not to build the alien computer. But Turchin assumes that the message would also contain “bait” in the form of promises that the computer could, for example, solve our biggest existential challenges or provide unlimited power to those who control it.

Geopolitics would play a role as well. Just as international competition has led nations in the past to embrace dangerous technologies — like nuclear weapons — out of fear that their adversaries would do so first, the same could happen again in the event of a message from space. How confident would policymakers in Washington be that China would safely handle such a signal if it received one first — or vice versa?”

Why Boeing’s successful Starliner test is a big deal

“The nightmare scenario of a space monopoly isn’t too different from the fear of a monopoly here on Earth. If just one company gains too much control over the space market and gets too far ahead with its tech, it’s possible that future competitors could be blocked out of space for good. That means a single company, like SpaceX, could end up with an enormous amount of influence over how humans visit and utilize resources in space.”