Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Delivering science and technology to protect our nation and promote world stability

Diverting Doomsday

If Earth were to be hit by a large comet, it could mean the end of humanity. There is one thing that could improve our odds of survival—if only it existed.
December 1, 2016
Visualization of a rocket against the backdrop of space and stars

Long-period comets are large and come around only once on the timescale of our civilization. This presents a particular challenge for protecting our planet from a devastating cosmic collision.CREDIT: Glen Wurden

There isn’t much to be done, defense-wise, about a comet’s size or orbit, but it may be feasible to change its trajectory.

A large comet is thought to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. There are more, even larger comets in space that could at any time be headed our way. A rocket with enough speed and power to intercept an Earth-bound comet well before doomsday could conceivably alter the comet’s trajectory enough to avert impact. Such rockets don’t exist, but perhaps they will someday if scientists, including some at Los Alamos, put their minds and expertise to the challenge.

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