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NASA and FEMA Hold Asteroid Impact Simulation Exercise

Asteroids are coming for us, NASA says. The only question is when.
To prepare for the low-likelihood but high-consequence possibility of a relatively large asteroid fixing Earth in its sights, NASA and the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) held asteroid-impact simulation exercises in El Segundo, California, last month

This was the third in a series of exercises the agencies have held to help increase collaboration, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement November 4. NASA and FEMA would lead the US response to a major asteroid hit.

This particular scenario envisioned the discovery of an asteroid between 300 and 800 feet across that might possibility hit Earth four years from now, NASA revealed. As the exercise continued, the imaginary asteroid was tracked with ground-based telescopes, and eventually the impact site was narrowed to Southern California

NASA estimates that space rocks smaller than about 80 feet are likely to simply burn up as they enter Earth’s atmosphere. Asteroids larger than about 82 feet but smaller than a kilometer (about 3,281 feet) would cause significant local damage to any impact area, however, and an asteroid larger than a kilometer or two would have “worldwide effects” – including tsunamis and possibly mass extinctions.

The exercise was designed to eliminate the possibility of using deflection measures to divert the space object, so the emergency managers around the table had to come up with ways to evacuate the 18 million or more people living in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and The Aerospace Corporation worked through data that could realistically be gathered and understood under such a scenario, including impact models, population displacement estimates and infrastructure that might be affected. They also discussed how to provide accurate information to the public in such a scenario, and how to quash rumors or scaremongering.

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