NASA and emergency planners training to tackle impending asteroid strike

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Experts from NASA and other government agencies are gearing up to tackle an asteroid hurtling towards Earth. No, it’s not another remake of a Hollywood blockbuster, it’s part of a simulation to prepare for the doomsday scenario.

When the International Academy of Astronautics Planetary Defense Conference kicks off next week, NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office will team up with other agencies and scientific institutions, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to work on how they would handle an asteroid on a collision course with Earth.

Estimated risk corridor for the impact of a hypothetical asteroid. © ESA

The group hopes to learn the best strategies for dealing with the threat, starting from the instant a potentially dangerous asteroid is detected by astronomers.

The experts will work on the following fictional scenario:

Astronomers discover an asteroid on March 26, 2019 and give it the name ‘2019 PDC.’ Very little is known about the asteroid’s physical properties, and experts have determined it could be anywhere from 100-300 meters in size. The astronomers class 2018 DPC as a ‘potentially hazardous asteroid.’

Initially, the European Space Agency and NASA’s ‘impact monitoring systems’ forecast that the asteroid has a 1-in-50,000 chance of striking Earth and it is most likely to strike on April 29, 2027. However, after monitoring the asteroid for a month, they conclude that the chances of the object hitting Earth have increased dramatically to 1-in-100.

Once again, this is fictional – there’s no need to call Bruce Willis just yet.

NASA says the exercise won’t be tightly scripted. The goal is to investigate how all the relevant agencies and citizens might respond to an actual impending asteroid strike. The space agency has already taken part in six similar exercises in recent years.

“These exercises have really helped us in the planetary defense community to understand what our colleagues on the disaster management side need to know,” said Lindley Johnson, NASA’s planetary defense officer. “This exercise will help us develop more effective communications with each other and with our governments.”

So there you have it. When the asteroid comes, they will be ready. We hope.

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