Of course, our planet will not have to face any space threat in the near future. NASA is just conducting exercises within an asteroid impact simulation to avoid a hypothetical disaster just in case.
This is the seventh such event in the agency's history, which takes place every two years. Last time, scientists accidentally "destroyed" New York in an attempt to save Denver.
This year, the exercise started on April 26. According to the scenario, on April 19, 2021, astronomers in Hawaii discovered the asteroid 2021 PDC, which is located at a distance of 57 million kilometers from Earth, and its closest approach to our planet will take place on October 20, 2021.
As a result of two days of object observation, the researchers estimated the probability of a collision with the Earth as 1 in 2,500, but later it increased to 5% (1 in 20). The size of the hypothetical asteroid is estimated from 35 to 700 meters, and the possible collision zone covers the territory of Central Europe and North Africa.
The exercise takes place over five days, with daily briefings on the scale of the simulated threat. Participants take on different roles: national government, the space agency, astronomers, civil protection agencies, and others.
On the very first day of the exercise, experts began looking for strategies to eliminate the threat. The original plan involved changing the orbit of the asteroid or destroying it with nuclear weapons. Then they concluded that it was impossible to prepare and launch a spacecraft for this task in such a short time.
By the third day of the scenario exercise, two months had passed since discovering the asteroid. A more precise geographic range of the intended strike has become known. The countries of Central Europe were under threat: Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia. The size of the asteroid was estimated at 140 meters.
During a collision with the Earth, such an object can lead to casualties of up to a million people with a probability of 21%, and the likelihood that more than 100,000 people will be injured is 74%. In the worst-case scenario, about 6.6 million people on the planet would be affected.
At the end of the third day, the participants concluded that mitigation options in space are not possible, therefore the civil emergency response is critical.