NASA to train people to defend Earth from asteroid

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and other US agencies and scientific institutions are set to participate in a “tabletop exercise” to train for what to do if a so-called “near-Earth object” (NEO) hits Earth.

According to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory they hope to improve their response to threats coming from space during the 2019 Planetary Defence Conference, scheduled for next week.

Attendees of the conference will stage a fictional scenario, developed by the NASA lab, which aims to stimulate an emergency situation – such simulations are standard for disaster management planning.

SIMULATION: The exercise will mimic a real-life situation of a threat coming from space (Pic: GETTY/Andrej Wojcicki)

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

The scenario is designed to gather and evaluate the responses of participants in an emergency situation- such as an asteroid travelling to Earth.

According to the fictional script for the event astronomers spotted a hazardous NEO on March 26 and tracked the asteroid – dubbed 2019 PDC – for a “few months”, predicting that it poses a 1 in 100 chance of impact with Earth in 2027. 

Participants will then have to come up with a preparation plan to deflect the hazard and mitigate its potential effects. 

Asteroid

DEFEND: The training will teach people how to protect earth from a potential asteroid (Pic: GETTY/Andrej Wojcicki)

NASA is also getting ready for its first spacecraft impact asteroid redirect mission. 

The test – Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) – is scheduled for June 2021. 

The European Space Agency (ESA) is also closely monitoring the skies for potential hazards.

In 2017 the ESA reported that a potential space rock, measuring 15-30 metres had flown past the Earth at a distance of 44,000 kilometres.

Asteroid

WATCHING: The European Space Agency is also closely monitoring the skies for a potential hazard (Pic: GETTY/Andrej Wojcicki)

An asteroid of this size entering the atmosphere would have a similar effect to that of the Chelyabinsk event which took place when a 10-tonne meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk Oblast in Russia and caused serious damage to the region in 2013.

The event is said to have had the second largest impact after the mysterious Tunguska event on June 30, 1908. 

At the Tunguska event – then Eastern Siberia – was hit by an explosion, generally attributed to an air burst of a comet or a meteorite and according to various scientific estimations, about 850 square miles (2,200 square kilometres) of local forest was flattened.

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