Even though the probability of a giant asteroid crashing into Earth appears to be rather slim, essentially relegating this particular threat to the domain of science fiction and disaster movies, researchers continue to work on developing the means of adjusting the trajectories of these massive space rocks, just in case.
According to ABC News, in 2021, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission is expected to "demonstrate a kinetic impactor technique on a double asteroid - essentially bumping the smaller asteroid - to see how much they can move it."
"The thing is, if you move something years in advance, you don't have to move it very much. This is a rock that's the size of a skyscraper. You would then hit it with a spacecraft kind of the size of a small car, and by impacting it, it impacts energy and momentum and will move it slightly off its orbit," said Pete Worden, adviser on space resources to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
Other asteroid-deflection techniques that are reportedly being considered by scientists include a "giant laser", a "modest-sized spacecraft" that would employ solar electric repulsion to affect an asteroid trajectory without even touching it, and a method that involved "essentially spray painting one side of an asteroid, which would cause it to be heated by the sun differently" and thus cause it to alter its course over time.
NASA Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson told the media outlet that while there are plenty of asteroids passing in the vicinity of our planet, it is the ones on a direct collision course with Earth that would pose a real threat, and mankind should prepare for that eventuality.
"Someday the earth will be impacted again. The question is when, and we want to be prepared for that," he said.