U.S. stepping up Earth's protection from asteroids, comets

U.S. stepping up Earth's protection from asteroids, comets

U.S. stepping up Earth's protection from asteroids, comets

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.

The plan is called the "National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan" and will focus on how the US government will handle objects from space that approach Earth.

The 20-page plan, unveiled on Wednesday, details steps the United States should take to be better prepared for objects such as asteroids and comets that come within 30 million miles of the planet.

The plan itself has five major points that NASA wants to work on over the next decade: to enhance NEO detection and tracking, improve NEO modeling and movement prediction, create better techniques for deflecting or destroying NEOs, improve worldwide cooperation on potentially Earth-shattering NEO impacts, and establish new emergency procedures in the event of an impending NEO strike.

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"By completing the action plan, NASA and several other departments and agencies will evaluate and begin development of various approaches and technologies for defending Earth from a significant impact", NASA says.

"The nation already has significant scientific, technical and operation capabilities that are relevant to asteroid impact prevention", said Lindley Johnson, NASA's planetary defense officer, at NASA Headquarters, Washington in a statement.

Scientists hope to learn more about asteroids from a pair of missions now under way. The fifth goal, meanwhile, is to "strengthen and exercise procedures and protocols" for not only assessing threats but also communication, response and recovery around those threats. An asteroid that size famously exploded over Siberia on June 30, 1908. NASA had plans to attempt this with the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) in 2021, but the Trump administration scrapped that mission in 2017.

"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.

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In a big announcement that includes plenty of assurances that we're not now in danger of an asteroid impact, NASA has a new plan for dealing with asteroid impacts.

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.

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 global response to the NEO hazard", Johnson said. That's apparently what happened in 2013 when an asteroid about 66 feet (20 meters) in size suddenly appeared and exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, damaging thousands of buildings and causing widespread injuries.

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

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