NASA details government plan for dealing with asteroids near Earth

NASA has contributed to a multi-agency report detailing ways the United States can prepare to deal with near-Earth objects, more commonly called NEOs. Though our planet isn't at immediate threat of being struck by one of these large space rocks, it's only a matter of time before a comet or asteroid gets too close for comfort. When that time comes, NASA wants to be ready to divert its path.

An NEO is a comet or asteroid known to researchers that has an orbit within 30 million miles of our planet. An impact from a large space rock could result in a major natural disaster with far-reaching — and severe — effects. Fortunately, experts don't see any reason to be concerned about such an impact at this time, but that doesn't mean humanity shouldn't prepare for the future.

NASA teamed up with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Office of Science and Technology Policy, among others, to help create a 20-page report called The National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan. According to the space agency, this document "organizes and coordinates" the next decade of efforts among federal agencies in dealing with NEOs.

Various researchers, organizations, teams, and agencies have proposed concepts for ways to eliminate or divert NEOs that get too close, including contraptions that will change their orbit. We've seen nuclear responses suggested as ways to break up or divert these large space rocks, as well as objects designed to collide with NEOs, knocking them into a different path.

Overall, the government has identified a total of five primary goals related to the reduction of NEO impact risks, including improving the ability to detect and track them, developing ways to deflect them, establishing emergency protocols and actions for NEO impacts, and increasing cooperation with international agencies.