“If Apophis, a near earth asteroid, hits earth than we are all extinct,” says ISRO Chief

"If Apophis, a near earth asteroid, hits earth than we are all extinct," says ISRO Chief

"If Apophis, a near earth asteroid, hits earth than we are all extinct," says ISRO Chief

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ISRO Chief S Somanath highlights the looming threat of asteroid Apophis. He emphasizes the urgent need for planetary defence measures.

In a significant announcement, ISRO Chief S Somanath has warned about a potential asteroid threat that could have catastrophic consequences for Earth. A near-Earth asteroid named, Apophis, with a diameter of 370 meters, is set to pass close to Earth on April 13, 2029. Also, another flyby expected in 2036. This asteroid has been identified as one of the most hazardous of the present era.

"If Apophis, a near earth asteroid, hits earth than we are all extinct," says ISRO Chief

Historical precedents underscore the gravity of such threats. For instance, the Tunguska event in Siberia on June 30, 1908, involved a massive air blast from an asteroid. It caused flattening of approximately 2,200 square kilometers of dense forest and destroying nearly 80 million trees. An even larger asteroid impact, 10 kilometers or more in diameter, is considered an extinction-level event, hypothesized to have caused the demise of the dinosaurs.

Somanath emphasized that while catastrophic events might not occur within an individual’s lifetime. However, history of the world and the universe shows these events are frequent. “If such an event happens on Earth, we all are extinct,” he stated. Highlighting the real possibility of an asteroid impact, Somanath stressed the need for preparedness. There is a need development of deflection technologies, he emphasized.

Space organizations globally are actively working on building planetary defence capabilities to protect Earth from such threats. ISRO is also undertaking significant efforts in this regard. The recent successful demonstration of kinetic impactor technology by NASA’s DART mission has spurred global interest and progress in asteroid deflection techniques. ISRO has initiated focused activities towards planetary defence, aiming to enhance detection, prediction, and deflection capabilities.

On World Asteroid Day, June 30, ISRO hosted a workshop featuring technical talks from leading experts at space agencies like JAXA and ESA. Discussions covered asteroid missions such as Hayabusa-2, ongoing planetary defence initiatives, and the role of international organizations like the International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN) and the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG) in mitigating asteroid impact threats.

Anil Kumar, Associate Director of ISRO’s Telemetry, Tracking, and Command Network, revealed that experiments are underway. Efforts being made to determine if an asteroid could impact within a year and assess readiness for such a scenario. 

Somanath concluded by emphasizing the global nature of this threat and the need for collaborative efforts. “When the threat becomes real, humanity will get together and work on it. As a leading space nation, we need to take responsibility—not just for India, but for the entire world—to develop the necessary technical capabilities and work with other agencies,” he said.