COLLEGE PARK, MD – Emergency management officials from across the United States are taking part in a hypothetical disaster scenario involving the potential for a devastating asteroid impact this week.
The annual Planetary Defense Conference on the campus of the University of Maryland will involve hundreds of personnel, including those from NASA and FEMA.
The hypothetical circumstance involves a large asteroid, up to 984 feet across and traveling at 31,000 mph which is discovered eight years in advance of potentially striking the Earth.
The fictitious exercise follows the course of this threat to several possible endings and is designed to assist scientists in devising potential strategies for how to intercept and change the asteroid's trajectory, as well as helping emergency officials prepare response plans in the event the impact can't be prevented.
“What emergency managers want to know is when, where, and how an asteroid would impact and the type and extent of damage that could occur,” said Leviticus Lewis, Response Operations Division for the Federal Emergency Management Agency in a NASA press release.
The drill is happening as NASA continues its efforts to launch a planned collision mission involving an asteroid and a man-made spacecraft. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is scheduled to occur in mid-2021 and, if successful, will intercept a small moon in orbit around asteroid Didymos, 6.8 million miles from Earth. The satellite, which is known as Didymoon, is approximately 150 meters in diameter, which makes it a common size for an asteroid which could potentially pose a threat to Earth.
Sergeant Kent Sisson with Chelan County Emergency Management tells iFIBER ONE News that his agency is not involved in the training.
“We’ve participated in several disaster scenarios and meetings in the past but never anything like this or related to threats from space at all,” explained Sisson. “I’ve not heard anything about this one but it definitely sounds interesting for sure.”