This is how NASA would respond to an asteroid impacting Earth

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If an asteroid were ever to be come hurtling towards Earth, what would be the plan to stop it from impacting the planet?

That's the question NASA and its partners, including the European Space Agency and the U.S.'s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), are gathering at the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference in early May to investigate.

During the five day conference, NASA and its partners plan to engage in a "tabletop exercise" that simulates what would happen if scientists and authorities were to learn of a near-Earth Object (NEO) impact scenario.

"A tabletop exercise of a simulated emergency commonly used in disaster management planning to help inform involved players of important aspects of a possible disaster and identify issues for accomplishing a successful response," says NASA.

In the exercise, NASA and its partners have to respond to a "realistic — but fictional — scenario" involving a NEO named "2019 PDC," which has a 1 in 100 chance of impacting Earth in 2027.

Armed with all of the hypothetical information about "2019 PDC," the exercise is intended to see how the various organizations and governments would handle the situation as it unfolds.

"The first step in protecting our planet is knowing what's out there," said Rüdiger Jehn, the ESA’s Head of Planetary Defence. "Only then, with enough warning, can we take the steps needed to prevent an asteroid strike altogether, or minimize the damage it does on the ground."

In such a situation, the ESA says it would live tweet details "so you’ll find out the 'news' as the experts do." And for the hypothetical 2019 PDC asteroid exercise at the conference, the agency will indeed live tweet the series of decided actions as if they are made.

"These exercises have really helped us in the planetary defense community to understand what our colleagues on the disaster management side need to know," said Lindley Johnson, NASA's Planetary Defense Officer. "This exercise will help us develop more effective communications with each other and with our governments."

Despite NASA having participated in six NEO impact exercises before, each scenario is different and the agency says it's learned that the focus is not always on the asteroid details, even though that's still crucial to creating a plan to either deflect it or reduce its impact.

"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 of the Response Operations Division for FEMA.

Well, you know what they say...it's better to be prepared. At the very least, NASA and friends won't be panicking as hard if an asteroid were ever to really hit Earth.

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