It’s been fodder for sci-fi stories for years, but realistically, it’s only a matter of time. It could be a few decades, it could be a few thousand years, but Earth is eventually going to get hit where it hurts by an asteroid.
So to make sure humanity is ready for the fallout, NASA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) teamed up for an exercise in late October for what’s called a “tabletop exercise” to simulate how the agencies would work together and respond in the event a large asteroid were to hit the Earth. As Space reports, the goal was to evaluate the threat and game plan how the agencies could protect people and prevent panic.
"It's not a matter of if, but when, we will deal with such a situation," Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's Science Mission Directorate's new associate administrator, said in a statement. "But unlike any other time in our history, we now have the ability to respond to an impact threat through continued observations, predictions, response planning and mitigation.”
As part of the exercise, the groups looked at what would happen if an asteroid 300-800 feet long were to hit in Southern California near the Pacific Ocean. From those data points, they calculated how many people would be affected or displaced by the collision, and how to coordinate a large-scale evacuation. The groups also had to battle the spread of misinformation, which would almost certainly be a concern in the event of a real collision.
Considering any plans to potentially deflect or avert an asteroid strike are still extremely early, planning for how we'll deal with a hit is certainly prudent. Hey, you can never be too prepared.