The next time asteroids menace the earth, we'll be ready. Because NASA has created a plan.
But before you get too excited, unfortunately, NASA's just-released plan does not include a Bruce Willis-led crew of roughnecks landing on an asteroid and blowing it to smithereens with a nuke. Which begs the question, if that's not part of the plan, what's a potential "Space Force" actually for?
Yesterday, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy released a report titled, the "National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan." Okay, see, this is the problem with government bloat. That title is a waste of words. Just call it "Armageddon."
The report is 18 pages of steps for NASA and FEMA to take over the next decade to prevent big asteroids from clanking into Earth. Wait, why is FEMA part of this action plan? Well, you know, in case the NASA part fails and we do get squashed by an asteroid. FEMA calls the we-get-squashed scenario "a low-probability but high-consequence event."
Step one in the NASA plan is better asteroid detection and tracking. That seems important. You can't dodge punches you never see coming.
Second, improving our ability to predict where an asteroid might hit, so FEMA can respond appropriately.
Third, the awesome part — asteroid deflection. So, if NASA's not using tough oil-drillers to land on and kill the asteroid, how would they do it? The plan would be to launch a spacecraft toward an asteroid that would change the asteroid's trajectory just enough to give us earthlings a good scare and a great show. But live to tell about it.
Just call it "Armageddon."
NASA has plans to experiment with this deflection technique with a spacecraft launching in 2021. It's called the "Double Asteroid Redirection Test" or DART. Clever.
Currently, astronomers have found over 8,000 asteroids in space measuring at least 460 feet across. That would be big enough to pulverize an entire state if it hit the US. But don't worry — only one-third of all near-earth asteroids are that large.
So, just a 33.3 percent chance of total annihilation.