A new multi-agency report published by NASA outlines how the U.S. could become better prepared for near-Earth objects.
These objects, also known as NEOs, are asteroids and comets whose orbits come within 30 million miles of Earth.
NASA scientists say the good news is no known NEOs currently pose significant risks of impact, so this report is a key step to addressing a nationwide response to any future risks.
NASA, along with the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and several governmental agencies, including FEMA, collaborated on this federal planning document.
The 20-page document is titled "The National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan," and organizes and coordinates efforts related to the NEO efforts within the federal government during the next 10 years.
The goal here is to ensure the nation can more effectively respond in case this type of natural disaster should occur.
Historically, and currently, NASA's Near-Earth Object Observation Program funds asteroid detection and tracking efforts at observatories across the U.S. and in space, and collaborates with other observatories around the world.
The NASA Center for Near-Earth Object Studies maps and publishes the orbits of all detected objects so that everyone can understand the potential risk.
NASA officials say they also are studying approaches for dealing with any Earth-threatening NEO by deflecting or destroying it.
By completing this action plan, space agency officials say NASA and several other departments and agencies will be able to evaluate and begin development of various approaches and technologies for defending Earth from a significant impact.
The plan establishes five overarching strategic goals to reduce the risk of NEO impacts through improved understanding, forecasting, prevention, and emergency preparedness.
Officials say achieving these goals will dramatically increase the nation’s preparedness for addressing the asteroid hazard and mitigating any potential threat.