NASA's NEO Spots Space 'Junk' -- Unlikely Threat to Planet Earth?
NASA's Near-Earth Object (NEO) Program Office was mainly established to "coordinate NASA-sponsored efforts to detect, track and characterize potentially hazardous asteroids and comets that could approach the earth." Reportedly, the space agency spotted space "junk" that could be a threat to the planet.
How is the space agency gearing up for potential threats to the planet? Since 1998, NASA has been keeping an eye on the sky and on outer space. Aside from NEO, the agency formalized a program called Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO).
With the help of PDCO and NEO, NASA has identified more than 14,000 objects buzzing around outer space. Asteroids that would make a significant damage if it does hit earth are approximated to be 900 in diameter, which is included in the 14,000 count.
While there is no coordinated strategy in case an asteroid makes its way to planet earth, NASA has two options. One would be to blow the asteroid up while in orbit; second would be to get people out of the way.
NASA along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has planned ways on both options. In fact, the United Nations already laid out recommendations which involves creating a worldwide warning network and advisory groups. They would then plan for what could be the inevitable - if space junk or asteroids do hit the earth.
In addition to NEO and PDCO, NASA has also come up with the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). Its goal is to "move" a multi-ton boulder that is headed towards the earth to the moon. This project is slated for the year 2020.
For now, the threat of an asteroid hitting the earth is still "unlikely" according to NASA. If it is any consolation, NASA has yet to record the death of a human killed by an asteroid. NASA also adds that "no large object is likely to strike the Earth any time in the next several hundred years."