Hollywood movies have long thrilled in showing us the catastrophic aftermath of an asteroid making direct impact with our planet. As explored in the compelling documentary Day of the Asteroid, this possibility is far from manufactured fantasy. Our planet has played host to asteroid collisions throughout its history, and it seems inevitable that it will happen again. Is there anything we can do to protect ourselves?
The galaxy is a vast battlefield populated and shaped by a countless series of violent impacts and explosions. When these events involve our planet, the results are profound. As detailed in the film, there are currently 175 sites throughout the globe where the remnants of asteroid impact are evident. The resulting craters date back millions of years, and produced explosions with a ferocity over 8000 times that of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Not all of these incidents belong to the ancient past; the Chelyabinsk meteor of 2013 indirectly resulted in over a thousand injuries.
In the wake of such forceful impact, global chaos and mass extinction ensued. The common scientific consensus is that a repeat of the kind of impact that eradicated the dinosaur species 65 million years ago is highly unlikely. But Earth does lie in the path of many smaller asteroid structures, and their collision with our planet could spell calamity for sizable portions of our population.
High-powered telescopes employed by NASA and other independent astrological endeavors scan the skies in search of potential threats. Each year, their list of possible culprits grows by thousands, yet they have only accounted for 10% of the asteroids within Earth's impact range.
Even so, steps are being taken to proactively deter asteroids from making such an impact. As detailed in the film, the European Space Agency (ESA) has joined forces with NASA for the Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM). Working in collaboration, these two entities are collecting data and formulating plans for technologies that can change the path of offending asteroids.
These are the kind of "futuristic" missions we're accustomed to seeing in the movies. Day of the Asteroid enlightens and thrills by showing us the very real work being done to thwart another planetary doomsday scenario.