Cancel your Space Weekly magazine subscription this instant – I’ve got all your intergalactic updates right here you little space perv. If you’ve been mindlessly floating about the internet this week you’ve no doubt seen photos and videos from Virgin Galactic’s first fully crewed spaceflight. While this is big time stuff for commercial space flights, it may have overshadowed something arguably way more exciting and important; not becoming extinct.
That’s right, humans of Earth. Our entire species and every other species we care to pet and eat are up for grabs in a winner takes all, cataclysmic jackpot. Heading towards us by way of space is an asteroid named Bennu. This fuckwit weighs in at around 85.5 million tonnes and is as wide as the Empire State Building is tall. A whole lot of no thank you.
If Bennu were to grace our orbit we’d be flat out not having a good time, completely burnt toast if you will. A collision with Earth would create an impact roughly 80,000 times stronger than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. For a little comparison, that’s 12 times nastier than the asteroid that gave dinosaurs the permanent peace sign.
Now that I’ve clickbaited you into some sweaty pits, let me tell you the good news. The chances of an impact are rather slim; 1 in 2,700 to be exact, and all this hairiness is scheduled for between the years 2175 and 2199. However, as far as consequences go, they don’t get much bigger than this and it’s definitely something we should give some kind of shit about.
That’s precisely what scientists are doing at China’s National Space Science Centre (giving a shit). Their plan is to send 23 Long March 5 rockets to meet Bennu and divert the asteroid by way of pushing. Now you might be thinking to yourself, “Only 23? Maybe send a couple more?” Not to worry, these aren’t your average cold war rockets, each of these guys weigh 992 tons.
So fingers crossed our great, great, great, great grandchildren live long enough to give Bennu the middle finger.