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Federal Government Releases National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Plan

23 June 2018

While the new report doesn't ask NASA scientists to start planning for additional missions, it does request that the agency "identify opportunities in existing and planned telescope programs to improve detection and tracking by enhancing the volume and quality of current data streams".

The White House and NASA announced a new preparation plan Wednesday that could be used in the event a near-Earth object is on a collision course with the planet.

A new multiagency report outlines how the US could become better prepared for near-Earth objects - asteroids and comets whose orbits come within 30 million miles of Earth - otherwise known as NEOs.

Though our planet is in no immediate danger, NASA has a contingency plan and is prepared to deal with the eventuality that a near-Earth object (NEO) might come too close to us and crash on Earth's surface. Just over 800 are 140 metres (460ft) or bigger. But such short notice would give the world time, at least, to evacuate the area it might hit, he said. "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 said, adding that all of NASA's proposed asteroid-deflection techniques "would all be done by robotic spacecraft". What's hard to detect are rocks that have already zipped past the sun and are heading out of the solar system, approaching from the day side. In 2013, a house-sized meteor (a part of an asteroid) injured more than 1,600 people in Chelyabinsk, Russia.

An asteroid double or even triple that size exploded over Tunguska, Russia, in 1908, levelling 2,000 square kilometres (770 square miles) of forest.

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According to the report, casualties could be in the millions if a similar event struck NY.

Mr Johnson stressed it would take years to attempt to turn away a potential killer asteroid - several years to build a spacecraft then another few years to get it to the target. "This kind of cooperation is really important", said Aaron Miles, a senior policy adviser with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

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. In the first, NASA is directed to lead a new effort to enhance the nation's ability to detect, track and characterize near-Earth asteroids, in order to "reduce current levels of uncertainty and aid in more accurate modeling and more effective decision-making", the document states.

"While no known NEOs now pose significant risks of impact, the report is a key step to addressing a nationwide response to any future risks", NASA officials said in a statement.

Forget about sending astronauts, Hollywood style. Missions like this lasting months or years make it hard if not impossible for humans, given current technology, he noted.

Federal Government Releases National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Plan