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NASA unveils bold new plan to protect the Earth from asteroids

This photo, taken in 2015, shows the Earth as seen by NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC), on board of NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) spacecraft. Credits: NASA

NASA unveiled its plan to protect the Earth and predict the likelihood of a threat of a near-Earth object (NEO) with five goals, including improved detection and improved modelling.

The 20-page plan, unveiled on Wednesday details steps the U.S. should take to better prepare objects, such as asteroids and comets within 30 million km of the planet.

“The nation already has significant scientific, technical, and operation that are relevant to an asteroid impact prevention,” said Lindley Johnson, NASA’s planetary defense officer, at the NASA Headquarters in Washington in a statement.

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Johnson added: “the Implementation of the National Near-Earth Object Preparedness of the Strategy and action plan will greatly increase our nation’s readiness and working with international partners to effectively respond should a potential new asteroid impact be detected.”

In addition to the improve of the NEO-detection, identification and characterisation of the possibilities and the improvement of the modeling prediction, the plan is also aimed at developing technologies for deflecting NEOs, the intensification of international cooperation and the creation of new NEO impact, emergency procedures and action protocols.

On a conference call with the media, Aaron Miles, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Washington, emphasizes that there is no threat of an NEO for the door. “NASA and its partners have identified 95 percent of NEOs and no one will be a threat in this century,” said Miles.

When asked where the funding for this would come from Miles said the plan comes largely from existing resources in the U.S. government, but it is about the use of these resources and the money in a smarter and more efficient way.

Johnson added that the budget for the entire planetary defense part of the NASA’s $150 million per year.

Johnson also said that there are more than 18,300 included NEOs and a little more than 8,000 of them are more than 100 metres or greater.

In 2016, NASA opened a new office to track asteroids and comets that come too close to the Earth, known as the Planetary Defense coordination office (PDCO). The PDCO will formalize the agency’s existing programs for the detection and tracking of NEOs, NASA has been studied since the 1970s.

Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia

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