A planetary scientist admitted during a NASA podcast that the agency’s main defense against a planet-killer asteroid may not work as planned. But, the scientist noted NASA still has another futuristic option that can save the planet from a major impact event.

Andy Rivkin, a planetary astronomer at the John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, recently appeared as a guest in a recent episode of NASA’s podcast “On a Mission.” During the episode, Rivkin discussed the threat of asteroid impacts on Earth and the agency’s planetary defense tactics against them.

As previously discussed by NASA, its main strategy against asteroids is detonating it with a nuclear weapon way before it reaches Earth’s vicinity. However, according to Rivkin, firing a missile at an asteroid is more complicated than it seems.

“Asteroids have different rotation speeds, their north poles point in very different directions, so if you put a rocket on the surface, the rocket is going to rotate along with the asteroid,” he said during the podcast. “So you either need to only fire the rocket at certain times, when it’s pointing the right way, or you have to figure out a way to change the spin of the asteroid so that the rocket can always work.”

Fortunately, if this strategy doesn’t work, NASA still has another option that can prevent a massive asteroid from destroying Earth. Like something out of a science fiction film, Rivkin noted that the agency could use a powerful laser to melt an approaching asteroid.

“Another one that people have mentioned for the future is having a really powerful laser and basically slowly melt away the asteroid,” the scientist explained. “So, in this case, you could position the laser so that no matter what's going on beneath it, it's still going to be its own rocket in the direction you want. You're going to use the asteroid itself as fuel in a sense, and vaporize it away.”

However, as Rivkin pointed out, this method requires a lot of power and energy in order to work. The scientist suggested that NASA should look into using solar powers as a reliable energy source for an asteroid-destroying laser.

Asteroid Impacts
A new report indicates that a total of 26 nuclear-level asteroid impacts have hit Earth since 2000. Donald Davis