NASA reveals new plan to stop asteroids before they hit Earth

NASA reveals new plan to stop asteroids before they hit Earth

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NASA has up to date its plans to deflect probably hazardous Earth-bound asteroids — and none of them contain Bruce Willis.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy launched a new report at present (June 20) titled the “National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan.” The 18-page doc outlines the steps that NASA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will take over the following 10 years to each forestall harmful asteroids from hanging Earth and put together the nation for the potential penalties of such an occasion.

Officials with NASA, FEMA and the White House mentioned the new asteroid-mitigation methods in a teleconference with the media at present. “An asteroid impact is one of the possible scenarios that we must be prepared for,” Leviticus Lewis, chief of FEMA’s National Response Coordination Branch, instructed reporters through the teleconference, including catastrophic asteroid strike is “a low-probability but high-consequence event” for which “some degree of preparedness is necessary.” [Related: How Trump’s Space Force Would Help Protect Earth from Future Asteroid Threats]

“This plan is an outline not only to enhance the hunt for hazardous asteroids, but also to better predict their chances of being an impact threat well into the future and the potential effects that it could have on Earth,” NASA’s planetary protection officer Lindley Johnson mentioned through the teleconference. Johnson added that the plan will assist NASA “step up our efforts to show potential asteroid deflection and different mitigation methods, and to higher formalize throughout the U.S. authorities the processes and protocols for dissemination of the very best data out there in order that well timed selections will be made.”

Protecting Earth from incoming asteroids might be an enormous job, however do not count on astronauts to do it, NASA mentioned. “That’s something relegated to the movies — it makes a good movie, but we do not see in our studies any technique that would require the involvement of astronauts,” Johnson mentioned, including that each one of NASA’s proposed asteroid-deflection methods “would all be done by robotic spacecraft.” [7 Awesomme Sci-Fi Movies Where Asteroids Threaten Earth]

Five methods to put together for asteroids

Five main goals are detailed within the new plan. In the primary, NASA is directed to lead a new effort to improve the nation’s capabilities for detecting, monitoring and characterizing near-Earth asteroids to “reduce current levels of uncertainty and aid in more accurate modeling and more effective decision-making,” the doc states.

NASA already helps a number of ground-based observatories that scan the skies for asteroids — just like the Catalina Sky Survey in Tucson, Arizona, the Pan-STARRS1 telescope in Maui — and the NEOWISE house telescope. While the new report does not ask NASA scientists to begin planning for added missions, it does request that the company “identify opportunities in existing and planned telescope programs to improve detection and tracking by enhancing the volume and quality of current data streams.”

The second purpose listed within the doc discusses the advance of “modeling, prediction and information integration” throughout U.S. companies to assist predict the chance that an asteroid will hit Earth and decide precisely when and the place an incoming asteroid might strike. Emergency-management groups like FEMA would use this data to decide the very best plan of action when getting ready for an asteroid strike and coping with the implications after an affect happens.

In the third goal, NASA is requested to provide you with new methods to deflect an asteroid heading towards Earth. This entails creating new applied sciences for “rapid-response NEO reconnaissance missions,” by which a spacecraft might launch towards an Earth-bound asteroid and one way or the other change the house rock’s course in order that it not posed a risk. NASA had plans to try this with the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) in 2021, however the Trump administration scrapped that mission in 2017.

Image: National Near Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan
This graphic depicts the spatial extent of the injury if an asteroid measuring roughly 100 toes (30 meters) extensive had been to hit New York City. An asteroid that dimension famously exploded over Siberia on June 30, 1908. Known because the Tunguska occasion, this was the most important asteroid affect in recorded historical past.National Science & Technology Council

However, ARM was not the one asteroid-deflecting mission NASA had up its sleeve. The company’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), anticipated to launch in 2021, might be “our first technology demonstration of the kinetic impact technique to deflect an asteroid,” Johnson mentioned, and it’ll encounter the asteroid system Didymos in 2022.

The focus of the fourth purpose outlined within the doc is to improve worldwide cooperation to higher put together the remainder of the world for the potential of an asteroid strike — below the management of the United States. “This kind of cooperation is really important,” mentioned Aaron Miles, a senior coverage advisor with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “It’s a global hazard that we all face together, and the best way to approach and address that hazard is cooperatively.”

To assist the remainder of the world be ready for an asteroid strike, NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office is working with the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space to “look at what should be the international response to the NEO hazard,” Johnson mentioned. This committee created the International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN) — a gaggle of asteroid-tracking astronomers and observatories world wide — to assist facilitate the sharing of observations and different helpful information about NEOs.

In the fifth and final goal within the doc, the U.S. authorities is requested to provide you with a plan that may go into impact if a big asteroid had been discovered to be hurtling towards Earth — or if one had been to crash into our planet with little to no warning. NASA and FEMA have been collaborating on emergency procedures for asteroid impacts since 2010, and the new report requires the companies to “strengthen and routinely exercise NEO impact emergency procedures and action protocols.”

FEMA’s position throughout an asteroid emergency would contain notifying everybody who is likely to be affected — ideally before the affect happens — utilizing the identical emergency-alert system already in place for notifying the general public about climate emergencies and Amber Alerts. As with some other pure catastrophe within the U.S., FEMA would offer emergency responders and assist with the restoration course of.

Potentially hazardous asteroids

Asteroid-hunting astronomers have already discovered greater than 8,000 near-Earth objects (NEOs) measuring at the least 460 toes (140 meters) throughout — giant sufficient to wipe out a complete state if one had been to hit the U.S. But asteroids that dimension make up solely one-third of the estimated inhabitants of near-Earth asteroids.

Image: National Near Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan
This graph reveals the overall variety of near-Earth asteroids found as of April eight, 2018.
Alan Chamberlin/NASA/JPL/Caltech

Smaller asteroid impacts could also be much less catastrophic, however they can nonetheless trigger vital injury. The house rock that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013 was solely 62 toes (19 m) extensive, and it injured greater than 1,200 individuals whereas damaging 1000’s of buildings so far as 58 miles (93 kilometers) away from the positioning of affect. NASA is beginning to search for extra of these smaller asteroids, now that many of the bigger ones have already been cataloged.

“NASA and its partners have identified more than 95 percent of all asteroids that are large enough to cause a global catastrophe, and none of those found poses a threat within the century,” Miles mentioned through the teleconference. “Effective emergency-response procedures can save lives, and unlike most natural disasters, asteroid impacts are preventable,” he added.

“Implementing the National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan will greatly increase our nation’s readiness … to effectively respond, should a new, potential asteroid impact be detected,” Johnson mentioned.

The National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan is accessible to obtain as a PDF here.

Email Hanneke Weitering at [email protected] or comply with her @hannekescience. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

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