NASA has just outlined a basic plan of action in case a comet or asteroid is spotted coming toward Earth with the possibility of it colliding with the planet. The preparedness plan involves all Near-Earth Objects (NEO) these are large space rocks that are within 30 million miles of the planet and might strike Earth.
According to a release put out by NASA, there are no known NEOs that pose any significant risk to Earth as of now, but it is an initiative that is key in addressing future risks. The report mentions NASA, along with the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other government agencies collaborated on this federal planning document for NEOs.
This programme was summed up in a document that is titled, "The National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan," and this paper outlines the plans over the next ten years, says NASA. Efforts related to NEO impacts are important because they are, as the report says, low probability, but high consequence natural disasters.
"The nation already has significant scientific, technical and operational capabilities that are relevant to asteroid impact prevention," said Lindley Johnson, NASA's planetary defence officer, at NASA Headquarters, Washington.
"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."
NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) regularly maps and publishes orbits of all detected NEOs for everyone to see and understand that there is a potential risk of deep impact.
The space agency is also said to be looking into approaches for deflecting (turning aside) or disrupting (breaking up) asteroids. Earlier this year, NASA unveiled their HAMMER project where asteroids can either be pushed aside and away from Earth impact orbit, or use nuclear weapons to obliterate them. By completing this action plan, the agency along with its governmental partners will start to evaluate and actually begin development of various approaches, HAMMER, or otherwise, including the necessary technologies to defend Earth from a significant asteroid or comet collision, seeing as how there could be a Planet Nine out there firing comets this way.
The paper has put together five strategic goals to reduce risks of NEO impacts. This will be done first through "improved understanding, forecasting, prevention, and emergency preparedness", notes the release. As of now, the five goals are:
• Enhance detection, tracking, and characterization capabilities
• Improve modelling and prediction as well as information integration
• Develop technologies for disruption and deflection
• Increase cooperation to prepare for NEOs on an international level
• Establish NEO impact emergency procedures and action protocols in case the possibility of an impact gets real
While that sounds quite movie-like, such events have happened before and will happen again with a 100 percent certainty, say experts. It makes sense to at least be prepared for such an event. It is not clear if this programme will be a part of US President Donald Trump's "Space Force" or not at this time.