NASA admits it cannot protect the Earth from asteroid collision

June 24, 2024  22:21

The United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Planetary Defense Coordination Office, responsible for identifying and tracking potentially hazardous asteroids and comets, has published a new report. It states that the agency lacks the necessary infrastructure to protect the planet from asteroid collisions.

The report details an internal exercise conducted by NASA, simulating an asteroid collision scenario. In this exercise, a situation with a 72% probability of collision on July 12, 2038, was considered, with the requirements for preventing the collision being unknown. According to the scenario, the asteroid's diameter ranges from 60 to 800 meters, but it is more likely to be between 100 and 320 meters.

The probability that no one would be harmed by the collision is 45%, while the likelihood of more than 1,000 people being affected is 47%, more than 100,000 people — 28%, more than 1 million people — 8%, and more than 10 million people — 0.04%. The impact zone covers a vast area, including the United States, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.

Many internal divisions participating in the exercise identified numerous critical deficiencies in NASA's actions, particularly in planning and communication. For instance, the report notes the absence of a clearly defined response process in the event of an approaching asteroid.

It also highlights that, to date, only one practical experiment has been conducted to prevent an asteroid from colliding with Earth. This refers to the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, during which the spacecraft of the same name collided with the asteroid Dimorphos to alter its trajectory.

"The decision-making process for implementing space missions in asteroid collision threat scenarios remains unclear. This process has not been adequately defined either in the United States or internationally," the report states.

To address the identified issues, NASA recommended "periodic briefings and exercises to raise awareness of planetary defense and enhance preparedness for planning and responding to the threat of an asteroid collision."

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