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25 Dec, 2015 21:21

If something big enough hits Earth now, say ‘bye-bye’ – Rosetta mission astrophysicist

If something big enough hits Earth now, say ‘bye-bye’ – Rosetta mission astrophysicist

Sooner or later some big enough space body will inevitably hit our planet, astrophysicist Matt Taylor told RT’s SophieCo show. By that time we had better be prepared, because no Bruce Willis is going to save humanity.

It is true that space scientists have the technical means to see practically everything that flies towards our planet, yet space objects are numerous and one day some “odd thing” might come towards Earth, Taylor said, stressing that monitoring space and deflecting dangerous space objects are two different technologies.

And if some sort of Armageddon-style thing approaches our planet and “Bruce Willis doesn't want to help us” – humankind would have to find a way of diverting or destroying such space guests, although practical steps in that direction will be a matter for the future.


Our civilization remains largely unprepared for such a rendezvous, “if something hits the sky now – then no, there's not much you can do apart from say bye-bye,” Taylor told RT’s Sophie Shevarnadze, noting that the outcome would depend on the size of the space object threatening to hit Earth.

“One has to remember that space is big and that it is highly unlikely that this would occur, but there's a statistical chance that it can occur,” the astrophysicist said.

Matt Taylor explained that Earth’s orbit is relatively safe because there are larger planets with a stronger gravitational pull that draw in these bodies, thus protecting our planet from ‘space guests’ coming from the outer parts of the solar system. However, the chance of collision remains.

“The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but you have to leave the cradle,” Taylor said, citing the pioneer of the Russian cosmonautics, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. Humankind would have to reach for the stars, be it out of the necessity to protect the civilization from space dangers or because of the “fundamental human trait – to explore.”

“Ultimately, that's what we will have to carry on doing. We'll be limited by physics and we'll see if we can overcome that,” Taylor said.

The astrophysicist mocked the collective consciousness, which believes that since astronauts regularly fly to the International Space Station (ISS), then everything is fixed and simple.

“The thing is, anything in space is dangerous still. It's a high-risk game and that's why I have the ultimate respect for anyone that does want to stick themselves into the top of the rocket and go up to the ISS,” Taylor said, stressing that he personally would not go into space.

“Every time we go up there, it's very,very difficult, it's a very,very horrible environment to live in,” Taylor said, saying that is the case however many significant advances in space satellites and technology and science have been made over decades of space exploration.

“I don't want to be an astronaut, but I don't mind sending space probes out that I can interact with. It's that aspect, because if we don't do that, then we may as well have stayed in the cave and look to our navel.”

Cap it all, however people might dream about establishing contact with extraterrestrial life, when the day of such contact comes, it is going to be quite a serious shock for the human psyche, Taylor believes.

“I'm not sure how people would cope with that,” Taylor shared.

Taylor is the space scientist who managed to successfully park the Rosetta’s Philae lander on the comet in November 2014 – man’s first-ever historic touchdown on a comet. It took Rosetta 10 years to reach the comet and drop the landing module onto its surface. Comets are believed to have kept a record of the physical and chemical processes that occurred during the early stages of the evolution of our sun and solar system. Thus by studying them, scientists expect to better understand how life on Earth began.

Taylor explained that scientists “study comets because they’re full of stuff that was there right at the beginning and so, we’re studying that so that we get an idea of what the ingredients were that went to form planets, from Sun, and we’re trying to what the dynamic process was, to find out, ultimately, why we on Earth are here.”

When speaking about Rosetta, Taylor said that a fundamental human trait is the desire to explore, adding that for him “that’s what special about Rosetta. It’s an exploration, it’s going somewhere that we’ve never been before.”

Rosetta is about “trying to find out answers to bigger questions,” he said

Taylor was nearly overshadowed by an accomplishment of cosmic proportions when he wore a T-shirt with pin-up girls bearing firearms to a press conference. Some hated him for it, others defended the eccentric scientist.