A killer asteroid will hit the Earth, and it is not a matter of “if” but “when,” based on the discussions during last week’s 2019 International Planetary Defense Conference.

Bill Nye opened up about the threat of asteroid impacts and possible extinction, explaining that people need to be more aware of this threat. "The Earth is going to get hit with another asteroid," Nye said during the 2019 International Planetary Defense Conference. "The problem is, we don't know when.”

Nye, who is known as the TV “Science Guy” and is currently the CEO of the Planetary Society, continued by saying that even if an asteroid doesn't hit Earth within the next few decades, the threat is still there.

"It's a very low probability in anyone's lifetime, but it's a very high-consequence event. If it happens, it would be like control-alt-delete for everything," he added.

Nye has called the attention of everyone to respond to this problem because unlike the prehistoric dinosaurs, the current generation can do something about it.

The planetary defense exercise has become a consistent event for the international community in preparation for deflecting near-Earth objects (NEOs) such as asteroids and comets. Various ways to deflect near-Earth asteroids were addressed during the conference.

The problem was broken down into three steps: (1) identifying potentially hazardous asteroids, (2) communication among the global community, and (3) developing response strategies against asteroid impacts.

To defend Earth against the catastrophic event, scientists are mapping out all asteroids, especially the near-Earth ones. NASA believes that they have discovered more than 90 percent of asteroids that could intercept Earth’s orbit. So far, none of these is a potential threat to civilization.

But despite this positive news, Nye emphasized that we should develop better detection tools because there are still undiscovered asteroids that could become a threat to Earth. These tools include the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, which is set to catalog 80 to 90 percent of hazardous asteroids with the size of about 460 feet wide (140 meters). The telescope is a great help in mapping near-Earth asteroids.

In addition, NASA is also preparing to launch the Near-Earth Object Camera (NEOCam), a space camera equipped with an infrared telescope designed to scan the solar system for possible hazardous asteroids.

Dealing with a killer asteroid is a global issue, so coordination among the international community is the next step once we are equipped in asteroid detection. Detected asteroids could be years or decades away, and that will give people ample time to send off a space probe that could fly alongside the asteroid and change its trajectory due to the interaction of their gravity.

If we detected the asteroid a bit late, crashing one or more spacecraft, detonating a nuclear bomb and using laser ablation are possible options that could deflect their course away from the Earth.

An asteroid impact is believed to have caused a chain reaction that led to the dinosaur extinction 65 million years ago. NASA will be launching the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission that will demonstrate a planetary defense technique involving crashing into an asteroid to deflect its movement by the year 2022.

NASA asteroid impact
An illustration shows an asteroid impacting Earth in circumstances similar to the asteroid strike that killed the dinosaurs and plunged the world into darkness. NASA/NCAR