Asteroid 2038: US and Other Countries Prepare to Defend Against Space, New York, NY 10001

The collision with a large and dangerous asteroid threatening Earth demands significant international cooperation. Experts stress the importance of preparing in advance to develop a potential response strategy.

The United Nations (UN) has already established procedures for responding to tsunamis and other major events. However, the scale of an asteroid impact threat may require an international response of unprecedented magnitude. Coordinating the evacuation of people from the potential impact zone, which could span vast territories, will be a critical part of such a response.

This new threat necessitates organization and discussions on how to coordinate massive efforts. Who will lead the process? Will it be the UN or a combination of international organizations?

In April 2024, the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland hosted the fifth Planetary Defense Exercise. These events assess a nation’s ability to effectively respond to the threat of potentially hazardous asteroids or comets. About 100 participants from various US federal agencies and international institutions took part in the exercises.

The scenario involved the detection of a large asteroid that could collide with Earth on July 12, 2038. The probability of impact was 72%, and the potential impact zone included cities such as Dallas, Memphis, Madrid, and Algiers. However, the size of the asteroid remained unknown, complicating the assessment of potential consequences.

During the exercises, participants discussed three main courses of action: waiting for more data, studying the threat, or developing a mission to deflect the asteroid. The latter two options could cost between $200 million and $1 billion.

Most participants supported studying the threat and developing a mission but acknowledged that political realities could limit immediate actions. They also emphasized the necessity of international involvement from the outset, crucial for establishing trust and ensuring an effective response.

The exercises did not result in the creation of strict response rules for an asteroid threat. The main goal was to discuss possible scenarios and enhance readiness within the scientific and international community for such a threat.

The planning process and collaborative effort were recognized as key elements of the exercises, which will aid in preparing for a real threat scenario.

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