National Near-Earth Object Preparedness and Strategy Action Plan details the steps that NASA and Federal Emergency Management Agency will take to prevent asteroids from hitting Earth.

Florence was the largest asteroid to pass by our planet this close since the NASA programme to detect and track near-Earth asteroids began
Florence was the largest asteroid to pass by our planet this close since the NASA programme to detect and track near-Earth asteroids began (Reuters Archive)

NASA has come up with a plan to protect the Earth from asteroids, in the unlikely event that one were to hit the planet.

Titled National Near-Earth Object Preparedness and Strategy Action Plan, the document details the steps NASA and Federal Emergency Management Agency will take to prevent asteroids hitting Earth, and to prepare the planet should such a catastrophic event take place.

Large asteroids can obliterate life on Earth, but smaller ones may also cause serious damage. The asteroid that hit Tunguska, Russia in 1908, for example, levelled over 1800 square kilometres (700 square miles) of forest, and would have been able to destroy the entire metropolitan New York area. Estimates on the size of the asteroid vary from anything between 60 to 200 metres.

The outlined plan involves five main goals. The first involves enhancing detection of near-Earth objects, or asteroids that pass within 45 million kilometres (28 million miles) of Earth's orbit. The second goal is to improve modelling and prediction, to help determine when and where a potential asteroid strike will occur.

The third objective is to come up with new ways to deflect an asteroid, such as the Double Asteroid Redirection Test that's set to be launched in 2021.

Goal four aims to increase international co-operation, while the fifth and final goal calls for the US to come up with an emergency plan should an asteroid ever crash with little to no warning.

Source: Reuters