January 07, 2017

US publishes Near Earth asteroid defense plan

The National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy (Strategy) and the forthcoming National Near Earth Object Preparedness Action Plan (Action Plan) together seek to improve our Nation’s preparedness to address the hazard of near-Earth object (NEO) impacts by enhancing the integration of existing national and international assets and adding important capabilities that are currently lacking. The Strategy and Action Plan build on efforts at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to better detect and characterize the NEO population as well as recent efforts at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to prepare for and respond to a NEO impact. Together, they aim to foster a collaborative effort in which the Nation can better understand, prevent, and prepare for the effects of a NEO impact. The Nation must continue to leverage existing networks of expertise and capabilities, both public and private, and pursue targeted enhancements to improve the ability to manage the risks associated with NEOs.

Seven strategic goals underpin the effort to enhance the Nation’s preparedness to NEO impacts:

1. Enhance NEO Detection, Tracking, and Characterization Capabilities. Objectives include: developing a capability roadmap to inform a strategy for investing in both U.S. and foreign abilities for detection, tracking, and characterization; improving observation capabilities for more complete and rapid observation of the entire population of NEOs; and updating existing observatories with capabilities to improve characterization assessments.

2. Develop Methods for NEO Deflection and Disruption. Objectives include: developing capabilities for fast-response focused reconnaissance and characterization; researching deflection and disruption capabilities for NEOs of varying size, mass, composition, and impact warning times; and researching technologies required for deflection and disruption concepts.

3. Improve Modeling, Predictions, and Information Integration. Objectives include: ensuring that adequate modeling capabilities are developed for each topical need, especially for modeling NEO trajectories to reduce orbit uncertainties and predicted impact effects; determining what outputs are required by whom; and establishing an organizational
construct to coordinate the development and dissemination of modeling results.

4. Develop Emergency Procedures for NEO Impact Scenarios. Objectives include: promoting a collaborative national approach to defend against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from a NEO impact event; and developing coherent national and international communication strategies to facilitate NEO impact preparations.

5. Establish NEO Impact Response and Recovery Procedures. Objectives include: establishing national and international protocols to efficiently respond to a NEO impact, whether in deep ocean, coastal regions, or on land; and facilitating international cooperation and planning to recover from a NEO impact in a timely manner with minimal disruption.

6. Leverage and Support International Cooperation. Objectives include: building international support and policies for acknowledging and addressing the potential Earth impact of a NEO as a global challenge; fostering consultation, coordination, and cooperation channels and efforts for the planning for, impact emergency preparedness before, and response to a NEO impact; increasing engagement with the international community on observation infrastructure, data sharing, numerical modeling, and scientific research; strengthening international coordination and cooperation on NEO data and analyses; and promoting a collaborative international approach to preparedness for NEO events.

7. Establish Coordination and Communications Protocols and Thresholds for Taking Action. Objectives include: coordinating the communication of detected impact threats within the U.S. Government, as well as with other governments, media, and the public; developing a set of thresholds to aid U.S. decisions in whether to implement deflection or disruption missions; developing decision flowcharts for NEO hazard scenarios incorporating benchmarks and decision thresholds; and developing protocols for international interactions regarding NEO impacts outside of U.S. territory.

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