The Trump administration released a report Thursday outlining the steps NASA and other agencies were taking to prevent state-sized asteroids from pulverizing planet Earth.
The 18-page document notes updated plans the Federal Emergency Management Agency and NASA will take over the course of a decade to knock an asteroid off course. The plan does not include using astronauts to blow up enormous space rocks, a NASA official said during a conference call after the report was released.
“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 press conference. It will also help NASA set up mitigation and deflection techniques, Johnson added.
A crew of miners dressed in astronaut garb won’t be part of the plan, Johnson said, referring to the 1998 film “Armageddon,” starring actor Bruce Willis as the head of a crew of rough necks deployed to detonate a bomb on an incoming asteroid.
“That’s something relegated to the movies — it makes a good movie, but we do not see in our studies any technique that would require the involvement of astronauts,” Johnson said, adding that all deflection techniques “would all be done by robotic spacecraft.” (RELATED: Library Of Congress Invites Fake Scientist To Closed Meeting On Asteroid Collisions)
NASA has a slipshod history of detecting asteroids skipping across Earth’s orbit. A large asteroid called 2018 GE3 flew through the Earth-Moon system in April, less than 119,00 miles from Earth. It was discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey before skirting half the distance between the moon and Earth. (RELATED: NASA Overlooks Enormous Asteroid That Came Uncomfortably Close Clipping Earth)
The asteroid was about five or six times larger than the Chelyabinsk meteor that exploded over Russia in 2013, breaking windows and sending flames spiraling into the morning sky. The 2018 GE3 would have caused extensive regional, not global, damage had it collided with the planet. It is unclear where on planet Earth the asteroid would have hit.
NASA frequently worries about detecting such an object on an impact course with Earth too late to make a difference. Some scientists worry the agency won’t be able to get a mission together in time to stop an asteroid or comet, because it would five years just to build a spacecraft capable of the intercept.
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