NASA’s Asteroid Warning: A 72% Chance of Impact

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Hypothetical Exercise Reveals High Risk

NASA has revealed a shocking finding from a recent exercise: there is a 72% chance that a potentially hazardous asteroid could hit Earth on July 12, 2038. This exercise was part of NASA’s fifth biennial Planetary Defense Interagency Tabletop Exercise, conducted in April at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

Preparing for the Worst

The exercise, which included about 100 representatives from various US government agencies and international collaborators, aimed to assess Earth’s readiness to handle an asteroid threat. The scenario involved a newly detected asteroid with a high probability of impact 14 years from now.

Key Findings and Concerns

● NASA’s report highlighted several gaps in our preparedness

● Decision-making processes and risk tolerance are not well understood.

● Limited readiness to quickly launch necessary space missions.

● Need for better global coordination in messaging and disaster management.

Insights from the Exercise

Lindley Johnson, NASA’s planetary defence officer emeritus, emphasized the unique challenge posed by the scenario. He noted that a large asteroid impact is the only natural disaster humanity can predict years in advance and potentially prevent.

The Role of DART Mission

This exercise was the first to use data from NASA’s DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission. DART has proven that a kinetic impactor can alter an asteroid’s trajectory, providing a possible defence strategy.

Future Plans: NEO Surveyor

To improve the ability to detect and respond to asteroid threats, NASA is developing the NEO Surveyor, an infrared space telescope. Set to launch in June 2028, it will help discover potentially hazardous near-Earth objects years before they pose a danger.

While the asteroid scenario was hypothetical, the exercise highlighted the urgent need for better preparedness and international collaboration to protect Earth from potential asteroid impacts.

-Prisha Jaiswal

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