March 17, 2016 7:55 pm

Can We Escape the Fate of the Dinosaurs? Find out Friday.

Artist's impression of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs, along with said dinosaurs, for a StarTalk Radio blog post. Credit: estt/iStock.

Credit: estt/iStock.

Some day, after humanity has patted itself on the back for having successfully deflected an asteroid and done what the dinosaurs couldn’t, even after more than 100 million years on this planet, the movie version of the story might start here:

Once upon a time, after a meeting of the Association of Space Explorers where astronaut and engineer Franklin Chang Díaz had presented a status report on the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) engine he was developing, he was asked what the uses were for his design. One of a long list included “pushing an asteroid.” That got some of the attendees thinking, and afterwards, at lunch, astronauts Rusty Schweickart and Ed Lu and astrophysicist Piet Hut began the discussions that would end up creating the B612 Foundation, which eventually also spawned the Sentinel Mission. (We’ve actually had Sentinel Mission Program Architect Dr. G. Scott Hubbard on the show before, most recently here.

That story is just one of the stories you’ll hear when Neil deGrasse Tyson interviews former astronaut and B612 co-founder Rusty Schweickart. (FYI, Rusty was actually the first person to ever pilot the Lunar Module in space, on its first test flight, during the Apollo 9 mission.)

In addition to the interview with Rusty, on Friday’s podcast Neil and co-host Eugene Mirman also run down the risks of asteroids hitting Earth, including whether it matters what an asteroid is made out of, how big it is, and if it’s better if it ends up on land or in the ocean. (The answer might not be what you expect.)

You’ll also hear how the asteroid Apophis, which is scheduled to miss Earth when it passes us on Friday, April 13, 2029, could offer a useful opportunity for testing our deflection methods.

Please join us Friday, March 18 at 7pm EDT on our website, iTunes Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn and SoundCloud.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Jeffrey Simons

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