NASA doesn't fuck around, so it's no real shocker that the vastly underappreciated agency is staging a simulated asteroid collision exercise at this week's Planetary Defense Conference in the D.C. area.
While the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory affirm that such a presumably bad event isn't likely to go down anytime soon, they point to exercises like this as crucial to being prepared to make informed but quick decisions in a collaborative manner across governments.
"The asteroid is not in a convenient orbit at all," Paul Chodas, director for the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, told NPR. "It's not like one of these asteroids that we go to with our science missions, where you get to pick a nice asteroid that's easy to get to. In planetary defense, the asteroid picks you."
The fictional asteroid exercise is designed to bring together researchers, including scientists from NASA and ESA, to put in place a plan for dealing with the staged 1 percent chance of the asteroid crashing into Earth. From there, the exercise bumps that likelihood up to a 1-in-10 possibility.
Chodas further detailed that dealing with an event like this is particularly challenging given the number of unknowns involved, including whether the hit will ever happen at all. Furthermore, "the asteroid picks you" when it comes to planetary defense measures, meaning a greater knowledge of how best to intervene requires preliminary reconnaissance missions.
Not to worry, though, as the scenario itself isn't rooted to mirror a current real-world possibility. "We have in fact discovered almost all of the really large asteroids," Chodas said.
Compellingly, word of all this arrives just as the world received a new song from the NASA-inspired multimedia project Angels & Airwaves. Founder Tom DeLonge, who formally launched his To the Stars Academy of Arts & Science company back in 2017, now works with a team of adjacent intelligence experts, including NASA advisor Dr. Hal Puthoff.