A giant asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago, but NASA hopes they can keep a similar fate from befalling our own species. A new report from the space agency details who we might deal with this threat.
A National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan was released by the federal government on Wednesday, June 20. This document outlines current strategies to prevent an asteroid from striking the Earth, as well as how to respond, should such a collision occur.
“The nation already has significant scientific, technical and operation capabilities that are relevant to asteroid impact prevention. Implementing the National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan will greatly increase our nation’s readiness and work with international partners to effectively respond should a new potential asteroid impact be detected,” said Lindley Johnson, NASA’s planetary defense officer.
Near-Earth objects (NEO’s) are asteroids which pass within 30 million miles of the Earth at some point in their orbit. Although some of these could potentially pose a hazard to our home planet, none are known, so far, to be on a collision course with Earth.
The new plan is designed to provide improved detection of NEO’s, model their behavior, develop techniques to deflect incoming objects, increase international cooperation for incoming threats, and establish emergency procedures and protocols.
Although some science movies show humans blowing up an incoming asteroid (usually with nuclear weapons), this would likely be a bad idea, resulting in Earth being bombarded by hundreds or thousands of smaller fragments.
NASA has been studying the threat presented to Earth by asteroids since the 1970’s, and currently searches for threatening objects through a program called Spaceguard, developed in the 1990’s.