Noting that the potential for a “killer” or catastrophic asteroid strike is all too real, the White House this week issued a preparedness report on what should be done if (most scientists agree that the occurrence of an impactor is actually a “when,” not an “if”) an asteroid (or other hazardous object, such as a comet) is discovered to be on a collision course with Earth. The defense document, which was published last month, provides an over-arching strategy to effectively integrate all available national and international resources to combat a possible impact.
Space.com reported that the White House issued the 25-page report, entitled “National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy,” in an effort to be better prepared when a potentially hazardous object (read: asteroid, meteor, comet) intersects the orbit of the Earth in what could be a world-altering incident. The document outlined seven major goals that were designed “to improve our nation’s preparedness to address the hazard of near-Earth object (NEO) impacts by enhancing the integration of existing national and international assets and adding important capabilities that are currently lacking.”
The seven goals outlined in the report were to enhance the detection and characterization of NEOs, to improve modeling and provide predictions of NEO behavior, to develop methods to deflect and/or disturb the potential impactors from their dangerous courses, to develop emergency procedures for an impact scenario, to set impact response and recovery protocols, to leverage and support international cooperation in the event of a potential NEO impact, and to facilitate coordination in communications between related U.S. government agencies and establish a series of pertinent procedures if a potential NEO impact should be detected.
The report, which was compiled by the Interagency Working Group (IWG) for Detecting and Mitigating the Impact of Earth-bound Near-Earth Objects (DAMIEN), noted that while a “civilization-ending” impact by rocks from space over the next two centuries is unlikely, the risk of “smaller but still catastrophic NEO impacts is real.”
The strategy document follows the warning issued last month at a science conference on asteroid deflection in San Francisco that Earth was unprepared for a major impact from space. As the Inquisitr reported, NASA scientist Dr. Joseph Nuth of the Goddard Space Flight Center said that if a “dinosaur killer” asteroid were headed toward Earth, at present there was “not a hell of a lot we can do about” avoiding a catastrophe. He also said that the danger of a surprise comet strike needed to be factored into defending the planet, noting that comets were (on average) faster, bigger, and more likely to suddenly appear out of nowhere. Nuth argued that even if given a couple of years to prepare for an incoming impactor, there was nothing — or, at least, not much — in place whereby an effective deflection effort could be mounted in time.