Is NASA managing “end of the world” experiments?


Is NASA managing “end of the world” experiments?

As we all go about our lives, various threats could bring about the end of the world. Doomsday threats are rarely taken seriously, as they seem so far fetched and unlikely. But a group of NASA scientists has been secretly preparing for the worst-case scenario.

The Big Apple


NASA is best known for its space exploration and missions. But these ultra-smart scientists have taken it upon themselves to simulate a potentially devastating event taking place in New York City. And while the rest of us go about our daily tasks, they are taking this issue very seriously.

It’s not a small deal to them at all. A lot of resources are going into this topic in order to assure that humanity can cope with such a catastrophic event.



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Man on a mission


Like any other major project, NASA assigned the task of preparing for the end of the world to a single man, whose job is to manage this team of scientists. His name is Lindley Johnson, and he has been working with NASA since 2003.

Johnson is a veteran of the US Air Force, and he has been on this particular project ever since he became a NASA employee. Of course, it’s not easy to think about the potential damage such a magnitude event could have on the world and the human race; somebody has to do it.



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Extraterrestrial threat


With so many issues in the world, including global warming and overpopulation, humans are facing various threats from within Earth’s atmosphere. But Lindley is not tasked with dealing with those aspects that threaten our society. Instead, his job is to monitor space for any potential meteors that could create considerable scale damage on our planet.

Many meteorites enter Earth’s atmosphere daily, but they are relatively small. Many of them even evaporate upon entry. Still, the threat remains real, and if any of the giant meteors and asteroids come into a collision course with our planet, there needs to be a plan in place to handle that situation.

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Asteroid


You’ve probably seen the movie Armageddon, in which an enormous asteroid is headed directly at Earth, threatening to destroy the planet. Such a situation is Johnson’s worst nightmare, and he’s preparing for it every single day.

Since more than 70 percent of the world’s surface is covered in water, there is a higher chance that such an impact would take place in an ocean. But there is no guarantee that this would be the case. It’s his job to put a plan in place to make sure the damage would be as little as possible.

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Urban areas


Since the precise location of a potential asteroid crash cannot be predicted, Lindley and his team are preparing for the possible scenario of an impact occurring in densely populated urban areas, where the damage to human life would be at its highest.

These types of events, in which massive asteroids make an impact are scarce. This magnitude of an event only occurs once every several thousand years on average. But their unpredictability demands that we all take the necessary precautions. After all, it can happen at any time and any place.

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Potential damage


On Earth itself, there is existing evidence that shows just how much damage can be caused by an asteroid impact. Craters such the one in this image illustrate the massive destruction that could occur in such an unfortunate event.

And beyond the area of a direct hit, there would likely be additional damage as a side cause of the crash. Other infrastructure could easily suffer significant harm as well, making it even more essential to study the ramifications of an asteroid colliding with an urban area.

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Looking at the data


NASA is continuously analyzing the most likely striking points of asteroids hitting Earth. Moreover, the analysts attempt to estimate the potential damage that would occur, depending on the size and speed of the object making an impact, as well as the location on the planet’s surface.

And while it may seem that we have no control over these natural events, there are specific actions that can be taken to either prevent or limit the damage.

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Resources are key


Like in many other fields, the amount of money poured into a project can often dictate the progress made by team members. After all, more resources usually lead to better results. Despite working with NASA since 2003, Lindley had always settled for a paltry budget.

That is until 2015 when Congress increased the team’s budget from $5 million to $50 million per year. That money could be the difference between success and failure.

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Course of action


With a newly found array of resources at his disposal, Lindley has taken it upon himself to create potential solutions that would help us limit the damage from an asteroid strike. State of the Art technology is used to provide better data and tools that are essential for success.

NASA has already classified more than 2,000 asteroids that could hit Earth, with an impact that would destroy an entire continent.

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Potential solutions


One of the methods analyzed to stop an asteroid heading toward Earth was blowing them up. But testing showed that too much fallout would ensue, and other forms of prevention have been pursued instead.

Lindley and his team discovered that they could use kinetic impactors (uncrewed spacecraft) to hit the asteroids in outer space, thereby redirect their path away from Earth without any explosion occurring. Of course, the calculations would need to be extremely precise.

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Movie versus reality


In the movie Armageddon, the government sent a group of astronauts to land on the approaching asteroid. It was cool to watch the spacecraft attempt to maneuver through the debris to make a successful landing on the space rock.

But Lindley doesn’t believe that would be an ideal solution. Still, NASA has not completely discounted that option. It could end up being the best course of action, depending on the specific scenario that would arise.

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Asteroid landing


NASA has already put some of its astronauts through a training program, intending to simulate landing on an asteroid in outer space. The main goal of such training is actually to collect minerals and other materials from the rock’s surface.

But this training could go a long way if NASA determined that landing on an asteroid would be the best possible solution to prevent it from crashing into Earth.

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Watching the sky


The first and most crucial step in preventing a catastrophic asteroid crash is detecting them early. NASA’s plans for stopping an asteroid are complex, and therefore they require a great deal of time for analysis and implementation.

As a result, they have placed a large number of orbital telescopes to monitor our skies. Space is so vast and infinite that it is difficult to detect all potential objects making their way toward Earth.

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Global cooperation


Lindley understands that it would take a cooperative effort on a global scale, to reduce the damage from the devastation of a giant asteroid making an impact. His team has already run various training alongside FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), attempting to simulate such an event.

There are so many aspects to consider, including damage to human life, nature, and infrastructure. The importance of being prepared cannot be emphasized enough.

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Coming together


Earlier in 2019, Lindley scheduled a large scale conference, which included members of his team, as well as the European Space Agency and the International Asteroid Warning Network. This conference was focused on monitoring space for meteors and asteroids.

Perhaps these great minds will also be able to create preventative measures, as they work together to protect us all from extraterrestrial threats. Sharing data and information is always a primary key to success.

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Bunker up


The work of Lindley’s team and other organizations across the globe, go a long way in reducing the risk of extinction for the human race. And while that is good news, some might find this less exciting, as they have already built and stocked piled their bunkers in preparation for doomsday.

Still, the rest of us who do not have our bunkers are relieved and thankful to have people like Lindley and his team working to keep us safe.

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No worries


Despite having to worry about protecting humanity from potential catastrophe, Lindley doesn’t let his job bother him. He knows some of his NASA colleagues have even more draining tasks that he couldn’t handle.

One name in particular that stands out is George Aldrich, whose responsibilities are far from ordinary. After high school, he volunteered at a local Fire Department, where his ability to use his sense of smell to detect gas leaks was unmatched.

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Reaching new heights


The Fire Chief quickly recognized that George had a special gift for smelling various scents at the most minute level. He recommended that he apply to NASA, who had offices in the area. The Apollo 1 disaster opened the door for NASA to put more resources into preventing potential mishaps from occurring in the future.

They needed people, with an innate ability to detect dangerous hazards, which other people would not recognize at all.

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Good luck


George took his Chief’s sound advice, and he decided to try his luck of making it into NASA’s ranks. His high grades in mathematics and chemistry helped his case. As part of the recruiting process, he was asked to take a rigorous exam, hoping to perform well enough to be accepted.

After the test, he awaited the results, and eventually, the phone call came. It was NASA asking him to report for duty as a Chemical Specialist.

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Job title


What exactly did George’s new job, entail? A Chemical Specialist could mean lots of things. George classifies himself as NASA’s Chief Sniffer. Another term he used was Nasalnaut. Whatever title you want to assign him, his job was basically to smell anything and everything that NASA wanted to place aboard one of its spacecraft.

This is about as strange of a job as NASA might have to offer, but don’t underestimate its importance.

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Big responsibility


One of the reasons NASA needed someone to smell various objects was to assure the cleanest and odorless air possible for its astronauts. After all, they eventually need to cope with the air that is recirculated within the spaceship. But it’s not all about eliminating bad smells.

Some substances could contain toxic materials that would be difficult for a standard nose to detect. That’s why NASA needed someone with a strong sense of smell and chemistry expertise to do this job.

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Team Sniff


George has assembled a team of sniffing experts over the years. Their job is to smell every item of equipment that could potentially be placed aboard one of NASA’s spacecraft. George gained experience, which he has shared with his team members. He has already smelled roughly one thousand different items as part of his job.

The system used to rank the various scents is as follows. Each piece is assigned a number from 1 to 4. The higher the number, the more toxic and harmful the odor it for that item.

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Houston, we do not have a problem


To many people, it might seem like this job is absurd. But the details that go into a crewed space mission are so intricate, that this job is essential. For instance, camera film and velcro can create strong odors that could be toxic.

If they were placed on a crewed mission, they might become an obstacle for the astronauts on board. Human beings emit various scents naturally, so George is assigned with the task of reducing other odors from the equipment onboard NASA’s spacecraft.