Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The White House has announced plans to find a way to protect the Earth from dangerous Asteroids.
This Is NASA’s New Plan to Detect and Destroy Asteroids Before They Hit Earth
By Hanneke Weitering, Space.com Staff Writer | June 20, 2018 06:30pm ET
NASA has updated its plans to deflect potentially hazardous Earth-bound asteroids — and none of them involve Bruce Willis.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy released a new report today (June 20) titled the “National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan.” The 18-page document outlines the steps that NASA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will take over the next 10 years to both prevent dangerous asteroids from striking Earth and prepare the country for the potential consequences of such an event.
Officials with NASA, FEMA and the White House discussed the new asteroid-mitigation strategies in a teleconference with the media today. “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, told reporters during the teleconference, adding that a catastrophic asteroid strike is “a low-probability but high-consequence event” for which “some degree of preparedness is necessary.” [Related: How Trump’s Space Force Would Help Protect Earth from Future Asteroid Threats]
“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,” NASA’s planetary defense officer, Lindley Johnson, said during the teleconference. Johnson added that the 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 dissemination of the best information available so that timely decisions can be made.”
Asteroids are low risk high impact events – the probability of serious impact occurring in anyone’s lifetime is low, even less the probability of actually being personally affected by an impact. But a big impact could destroy a city, or an entire region. A really big impact could destroy civilisation, maybe even wipe out all life on Earth.
I think its worth spending some government money on preparedness. As the Chelyabinsk meteor demonstrated, this threat can emerge suddenly, without warning. Even better detection systems without the deflection capability would give people in regions affected by incoming space debris a chance to find shelter.
The risk from meteors is not just the damage the meteor itself could do. In 2002, a meteor exploded over the Eastern Mediterranean with the force of a small atomic bomb. If the meteor had arrived a few hours earlier, and exploded over India / Pakistan, it could have been mistaken for a first strike and triggered a nuclear war. 2002 was a time of heightened tension between India and Pakistan.
A better detection system, some notice or warning of an incoming meteor, might reduce the risk of a horrible mistake.
Video of a meteor strike in Lapland in 2017