In the late 90s, movies such as "Armageddon" and "Deep Impact" depicted an imperiled Earth desperately trying to blow an asteroid into smithereens before it could cause a mass-extinction on the planet.
That was fiction; NASA is dealing with reality.
On Wednesday, NASA announced a 10-year plan to prevent such low-probability, high-impact type events from striking Earth.
The plan orders scientists to come up with methods to deflect near-Earth objects before hitting Earth. Also part of the plan calls for mapping as many near-Earth objects as possible.
Here are the five points of the plan:
• enhance (near-Earth object) NEO detection, tracking and characterization capabilities
• improve NEO modeling prediction and information integration
• develop technologies for NEO deflection and disruption missions
• increase international cooperation on NEO preparation; and
• establish NEO impact emergency procedures and action protocols
“The nation already has significant scientific, technical and operation capabilities that are relevant to asteroid impact prevention,” said Lindley Johnson, NASA’s planetary defense officer, at NASA Headquarters, Washington. “Implementing the National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan will greatly increase our nation’s readiness and work with international partners to effectively respond should a new potential asteroid impact be detected.”
While NASA has found many near-Earth objects large enough to cause global destruction, that percentage is not 100 percent. NASA also believes that less than 10 percent of objects that are large enough to obliterate a city has been discovered.