NASA Prepares For Asteroid Armageddon With Simulation Exercises

26 Avril, 2019, 03:40 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • 16 Psyche Asteroid

Preparing for the possibility of an asteroid collision with Earth is not necessarily all work and no play.

During the exercise, participants will be briefed on the discovery of a fictional asteroid with a 1 in 100 chance - the threshold of worldwide action - of impacting Earth in 2027.

Aimed at effective disaster management, NASA and its worldwide partners are planning to participate in an exercise that will play out a realistic - but fictional - scenario of an asteroid on an impact trajectory with Earth.

For over two decades, NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), European Space Agency's Situational Awareness-NEO Segment and the International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN) have been identifying NEOs (Near-Earth Objects), asteroids and comets that orbit the Sun and Earth as their highest priority.

Developed by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Center for NEO Studies (CNEOS), the asteroid impact exercise next week is scheduled to take place at the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference to be held in the United States from April 29 to May 3. In real-life, that is the probability threshold that will kick space and emergency agencies into gear. After a "few months" of tracking, observers predict that this NEO - dubbed 2019 PDC - poses a 1 in 100 chance of impact with Earth in 2027 (in real life, the worldwide community has decided that a 1 in 100 chance of impact is the threshold for action).

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"This exercise will help us develop more effective communications with each other and with our governments", Lindley Johnson, NASA's Planetary Defence Officer, said in a statement on Wednesday. During the five-day conference, leaders will brief participants on the hypothetical scenario and solicit ideas and feedback. Participants will also plan mitigation efforts for the asteroid's potential impact.

NASA has participated in six NEO impact exercises so far - three at Planetary Defense Conferences (2013, 2015, 2017) and three jointly with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Each exercise builds on lessons learned in the previous exercise.

They will use the scenario developed by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Center for NEO Studies (CNEOS) for the simulation.

"What emergency managers want to know is when, where and how an asteroid would impact, and the type and extent of damage that could occur", said Leviticus Lewis, chief of FEMA's Response Operations Division.

"NASA and FEMA will continue to conduct periodic exercises with a continually widening community of USA government agencies and global partners", Johnson said. "They are a great way for us to learn how to work together and meet each other's needs".

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