23 May 2009

NASA, NSS, and Secure World Foundation Post Air Force Report on Interagency Asteroid Scenario

Secure World provides a useful summary:
From: http://www.secureworldfoundation.org/blog/2009/04/natural-impact-event-interagency.html
Natural Impact Event Interagency Planning Exercise
The U.S. Air Force Future Concepts and Transformation Division hosted a Natural Impact Event Interagency Planning Exercise on December 4, 2008, in Alexandria, Virginia. Twenty Seven Subject Matter Experts from across US Government, including the Departments of Defense, Energy, State, Homeland Security; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Security Council (NSC) participated in a single day tabletop exercise to explore “whole of government” response to an impending asteroid strike. Peter Anthony Garretson (Council of Foreign Relations) and Lindley N. Johnson (Planetary Science Division, HQ NASA) also wrote a paper summarizing the findings.The specific scenario involved a mythical asteroid, “2008 Innoculatus.” It was a binary asteroid consisting of a 270-meter rocky rubble pile projected to strike the Gulf of Guinea and a 50-meter metallic companion asteroid projected to strike in the National Capital Region (NCR). The scenario was selected to maximize exposure to the diversity of threat (variation in size, composition, land/water strike), stress both national and international notification, and provide useful pre-planning should an actual effort need to be mounted against the asteroid Apophis when it has a small probability to pass through a gravitational keyhole in 2029 and perhaps return to strike the Earth seven years later in 2036. Players were broken into two teams. The first team focused on disaster response and was told the asteroid was discovered 72 hours from impact. The second team focused on deflection/mitigation was told the asteroid had been discovered seven years from impact, and to design a “strawman” deflection plan using existing capabilities. Major findings include:
- The NEO impact scenario is not captured in existing plans
- The NEO impact scenario should be elevated to higher level exercises with more senior players
- Proper planning and response to a NEO emergency requires delineation of organizational responsibilities including lead agency and notification standards,
- Players were not able to achieve consensus on which agency should lead the NEO deflection/mitigation effort
- There is a deficit in software tools to support senior decision-making and strategic communication for disaster response and mitigation for a NEO scenario
- There are significant effects a NEO impact would generate that are not adequately captured in existing models
- The public may be aware of an impending NEO impact before senior decision-makers
- Lead time for evacuation requires decisions be made before best information is available
- Public safety and tranquility require that the federal government be able to rapidly establish a single authoritative voice and tools to present critical information
- The preferred approach for short-notice NEO deflection was stand-off nuclear


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