The space agency imagined what would happen if a 800-ft wide rock struck on September 20, 2020
NASA isn’t one to close its eyes or miss a thing, so it perhaps should come as no surprise that the space agency is preparing for the reality that one day a huge asteroid could be hurtling through space on the way to destroy the Earth in a story plucked straight from the script of Armageddon. And should Bruce Willis be unavailable to go space mining, it’s good to know that there’s a back-up plan.
Late last month, NASA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) joined forces to simulate a scenario to see how well they could respond if an asteroid were to strike.
“It’s not a matter of it – but when – we will deal with such a situation,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, in a recent press release.
Combining with members of the US Air Force and other federal agencies, the simulation examined how the world would react to learning of an impact due to strike on September 20, 2020. In such a scenario, the asteroid would have been already spotted by astronomers, with NASA concluding that there was a 100% likelihood of the 300 to 800 ft wide rock hitting off the coast of southern California.
Despite the 1998 Michael Bay movie positing that NASA could launch an offensive mission to steer an asteroid off course in just 18 days, NASA believes that four years is not enough time to carry out a similar exercise. Instead, the exercise was designed to “pose a great future challenge to emergency managers faces with a mass evacuation of the metropolitan Los Angeles area.”
NASA and FEMA did not reveal the outcomes suggested at the meeting, but said those authorities in attendance formulated plans to offer “accurate, timely and useful information to the public, while also addressing how to refute false rumours and false information that could emerge in the years leading up to the hypothetical impact.”
“It is critical to exercise these kinds of low-probability but high-consequence disaster scenarios,” FEMA administrator Craig Fugate said, according to NASA’s news release. “By working through our emergency response plans now, we will be better prepared if and when we need to respond to such an event.”