Are we prepared for an asteroid hit in 2038?

Nasa expressed concerns about our readiness to mitigate such a threat even with substantial warning.
Are we prepared for an asteroid hit in 2038?

NASA has warned that we might not be ready if an asteroid were to be found that has a 72% chance of hitting Earth in the next 14 years. The results of NASA's fifth yearly Planetary Defense Interagency Tabletop Exercise provide this insight. In this fictitious exercise, NASA discovered a scenario in which an asteroidal object that was previously thought to be potentially harmful has a 72 percent chance of striking Earth in about 14 years. NASA voiced concerns about our preparedness to neutralize such a hazard even with extensive warning, even though there are no big known asteroid impact threats in the foreseeable future.

"Participants considered potential national and global responses to a hypothetical scenario in which a never-before-detected asteroid was identified that had, according to initial calculations, a 72 percent chance of hitting Earth in approximately 14 years," Nasa stated. About a hundred participants from different US government agencies as well as foreign partners participated in this tabletop exercise. Evaluating Earth's capacity for successful response to an asteroid collision was the aim. These exercises are essential because, according to NASA, they provide insights into the risks, choices for responding, and chances for cooperation presented by different scenarios, which can range from minor localized damage to potential global catastrophes.

According to NASA, the asteroid falling behind the Sun as viewed from Earth's vantage point in space would require crucial follow-up studies to be postponed for at least seven months, complicating this year's hypothetical situation and costing valuable time. The exercise's summary stated, "Participants thought through possible national and international reactions to a fictitious scenario in which an asteroids with a 72 percent chance of striking Earth in about 14 years was discovered and had never been discovered before." With regard to July 12, 2038 (14.25 years warning time), there was a "72 percent chance of Earth impact." However, the asteroid's size, composition, and long-term course could not be precisely determined from this initial sighting.

The simulation presented a difficult scenario in which the asteroid's position behind the Sun caused follow-up observations to be postponed for seven months, making it more difficult to ascertain the asteroid's size, composition, and trajectory. Reps from several US government agencies participated in the exercise, which was held in April at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. This was the first time that international partners had been included. Additionally, this experiment was the first time that data from NASA's Dart (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission were used. The capability to use a kinetic impactor to change an asteroid's trajectory was demonstrated in 2022 when the Dart spacecraft successfully collided with the asteroid moonlet Dimorphos. In addition, NASA is developing the NEO Surveyor, an infrared space telescope designed to identify and assess potentially dangerous near-Earth objects long before they become a threat. The launch of this mission is planned for June 2028. The Planetary Defence Coordination Office of NASA has spearheaded the agency's efforts to track and manage potential asteroid hazards since its founding in 2016.

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