NASA can’t find most of the asteroids threatening Earth, but it has a plan

By Tim Fernholz

If the movies teach us anything, it’s that the US government has a small room with a few stressed-out bureaucrats worrying about every disaster that might arise. Volcanos? Absolutely. Pandemic influenza? You got it. Today, we heard from the killer asteroid team.

The bad news? NASA is not going to be able to find all the asteroids big enough to cause serious devastation on Earth by 2020—or even 2033. Also: For a hypothetical attempt to send a spacecraft to divert an seriously dangerous incoming asteroid, we’ll need a ten year heads-up to build it and get it to the asteroid.

The good news? They’re working on it. “If a real threat does arise, we are prepared to pull together the information about what options might work and provide that information to decision-makers,” Lindley Johnson, NASA’s Planetary Defense Officer, told reporters.

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