Nov 10, 2016 I Brett Tingley

NASA And FEMA Conduct Asteroid Strike “Wargame” Simulation

It’s a good thing we all live inside a giant computer simulation, because otherwise I’d be worried about all the apocalyptic asteroid news coming across my desk lately. First, a massive Earth-ruining asteroid whizzed past all of our detection systems and actually passed between the Earth and the Moon, prompting NASA to launch inquiries into just how (un)prepared Earth actually is. While several defense and detection systems are in the works, we’re still pretty defenseless until we find a way to deflect or destroy incoming space missiles.

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But hey, all good things come to an end, right?

To test just how badly an asteroid strike would ruin our television binge-watching schedules, NASA and FEMA recently conducted a joint asteroid strike simulation, similar to the wargames conducted by armed forces. The results showed that, least some people’s fiery deaths will be painless.

NASA Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson points to an important slide, probably having to do with the instant incineration of millions of people.

Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, stated in a NASA press release that these simulations are necessary because the odds of us not getting hit by an asteroid aren’t exactly in our favor:

It's not a matter of if - but when - we will deal with such a situation. But unlike any other time in our history, we now have the ability to respond to an impact threat through continued observations, predictions, response planning and mitigation.

Yeah, respond by going on a looting and rioting rampage full of hedonism as our fiery doom grows larger in the skies before finally putting us all out of our misery. But I digress. Several governmental agencies were on hand for the simulation including NASA, FEMA, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Department of Energy's National Laboratories, the U.S. Air Force, and the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services. The “wargame” simulated the discovery of an asteroid between 300 and 800 feet (100 and 250 meters) in size whose chances of striking the southwestern continental United States grow to 100% within months of its discovery.

The event enabled NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office to show emergency managers how it would collect, analyze and share data about Earth's impending doom.

A JPL press release issued after the simulation didn’t exactly disclose what types of scenarios were examined at the simulation, but did state that attendees were able to practice what types of information sharing would be necessary to brief the public ahead of such a strike and prevent misinformation. Whew, what a relief. I know the last thing I’d want ahead of a cataclysmic world-ending asteroid strike is misinformed media outlets. Let's hope they don't know something they don't want us to know.

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician living in the ancient Appalachian mountains.

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