Email
Password
Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageGovernment releases national Near-Earth Object preparedness plan

By Karen Graham     Jun 21, 2018 in Science
While the chance of a large asteroid hitting the Earth may be remote, the consequences would be catastrophic. The federal government released a new report today outlining the steps the nation will take to prevent or prepare the country for such an event.
NASA, along with the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and several other governmental agencies collaborated on this federal planning document for near-Earth objects (NEOs).
Recognizing the lack of a whole-of-government or international strategy for addressing NEO hazards, an Interagency Working Group (IWG) was established for Detecting and Mitigating the Impact of Earth-bound Near-Earth Objects (DAMIEN).
The document outlines the steps to be taken over the next ten years to ensure the nation can more effectively respond in case this type of very low-probability but very high-consequence natural disaster should occur.
This composite image shows the comparative sizes of eight asteroids.
This composite image shows the comparative sizes of eight asteroids.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/JAXA/ESA
In a teleconference with media on Wednesday, officials with NASA, FEMA, and the White House discussed the new asteroid-mitigation strategy. "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 said.
He added that a catastrophic asteroid strike is "a low-probability but high-consequence event" for which "some degree of preparedness is necessary."
NASA's planetary defense officer, Lindley Johnson said: "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."
Aerial view of Barringer Crater in Arizona. This crator was made by a very large meteorite.
Aerial view of Barringer Crater in Arizona. This crator was made by a very large meteorite.
USGS/D. Roddy
Goals outlined in DAMIEN
There are five major goals outlined to reduce the risk of NEO impacts through improved understanding, forecasting, prevention, and emergency preparedness. They include:
1. Enhancing the detection and tracking of NEOs, starting with the larger ones and working down to the smallest. This will be accomplished with radar and spectrographic analysis - as well as new technologies and analysis techniques in collaboration with other institutions.
2. The improvement of modeling, prediction and information integration on asteroids that will include the site of the impact, the extent of the damage, and the options for preventing or mitigating the strike.
Trees were knocked down and burned over hundreds of square km by the Tunguska meteoroid impact. This...
Trees were knocked down and burned over hundreds of square km by the Tunguska meteoroid impact. This image is cropped from the original, taken in May 1929 during the Leonid Kulik expedition in 1929
Leonid Kulik, the expedition to the Tunguska event
3. Development of technologies to deflect NEOs that would involve "rapid-response NEO [near-Earth object] reconnaissance missions," in which a spacecraft could launch toward an Earth-bound asteroid in an attempt to change its orbit. NASA had a program called the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) they planned on launching in 2021, but Trump scrapped the plan in 2017.
4. Improvement of international cooperation in dealing with NEOs through increased cooperation on observation infrastructure and modeling. "This kind of cooperation is really important," said Aaron Miles, a senior policy adviser 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."
5. Development of emergency procedures and protocols in the event of an asteroid strike. This is not much different than being prepared for any catastrophic natural disaster and includes communications, decision making, space-based evaluation, and mitigation plans.
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 said.
Johnson added this plan will help NASA "step up our efforts to demonstrate possible asteroid deflection and other mitigation techniques, and to better formalize across the U.S. government the processes and protocols for the dissemination of the best information available so that timely decisions can be made."
More about near earth object, NASA, Asteroids, Technologies, Modeling