Quora question- asteroid impacts


https://www.quora.com/If-Earth-were-to-be-unavoidably-destroyed-in-10-years-what-would-the-United-States-do

If we’re looking at something that can actually shatter Earth, we’re screwed.  Pretty much completely.  Even a Mars colony might not save the species, something that big will wreck orbits and cause tidal stresses and all sorts of other crap.  Our best chance in this case is to start with a distress call- just something a passing ship might notice and investigate, and hope to hell they’ve got some ideas and tech to help us out.  Parallel to this, build the largest Orion ship we can, load up the smallest genetically viable founding population we can to crew it, tell them to make babies, and point it at the nearest star that might have an Earth like planet in the habitable zone.  And hope they make it, find a habitable planet, and start anew.  Chances of failure would be incredibly high, but barring helpful aliens with fleets of FTL transports it’s our best, really only, chance of survival.

Now, as for somewhat smaller scale destruction- wiping out all life on the surface- there might be a few additional options.

There’s a good chance we won’t last long enough for the asteroid to kill us. Something this big, there’s no way it could be covered up past maybe the first few months after NASA notices it. Just too many people with telescopes in their backyard, and as it passes through the asteroid belt, too many people with eyes to look up with. There would be panic no matter what governments tried to do.
 
There may be enough wiggle room in “destroyed” for a crash program to build underground shelters for a large enough population to recolonize the surface eventually.
 
There might also be time for a crash project to build ships to take people to Mars. Orion ships could do it, and if the aerospace industry went all hands on deck to get it done(to the point of shutting down things like airliner production entirely) we could probably get a few thousand people to Mars. This has the advantage of being completely out of the line of fire, and the disadvantage of having far more unknowns and more points where things can go wrong than underground shelters.
 
Hopefully, enough people avoid panic that we could attempt both rather than putting all of our eggs in one basket.

A generation ship as in the scenario with Earth actually being destroyed wouldn’t necessarily be a terrible backup plan, but to make the far more plausible Mars attempt work we might not be able to spare the resources.  If the resource situation allows, though, the generation ship should be launched.

It would probably also be a good idea to try to send a distress call into space in this situation too. Coming up with something that aliens would immediately recognize as a distress call would be difficult to say the least, but coming up with something unusual enough to warrant a closer look might be feasible. I wouldn’t put great hope into this working, but we might as well try it if we’re facing extinction.  It’s much more likely, in the event that a passing alien picks it up, that they’ll be able to help mitigate this smaller scale disaster than the Earth shattering scenario above.

What’s an Orion ship you ask?  Nuclear pulse propulsion.  Toss a nuclear bomb out the back of the ship, and ride the shockwave.  The basic principles were proven in the 60s, but bans on nukes in space shut down practical research.  It’s the only tech we have that can achieve the speeds and load capability to give any of this any chance of working.  There are a few ideas discussed in scientific papers that might be better, but we can be sure Orion will work.  Will it work well enough?  Unclear.  But it will work at all, and we can say that with much more certainty than, say, an Alcubierre drive.

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