According to NASA, the first men to know of this impending calamity will be a group of fewer than 12 scientists, via a text message. The scientists will start gathering observations of the object, usually from one of the large survey telescopes.
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said in a statement,
“It is critical to exercise these kinds of low-probability but high-consequence disaster scenarios. By working through our emergency response plans now, we will be better prepared if and when we need to respond to such an event.”
As soon as a new near-Earth object (NEO) is detected, it is recorded in the Minor Planet Center’s public forum, which is an organization on the outlook for new objects in the solar system. And it is this organization that sends an email or a text message to the NASA scientists if it sees an object traveling on a trajectory towards the Earth in the next six days.
After that the process of gathering data and confirming its size and orbit begins. NASA and the Minor Planet Center have to agree on the fact that the space rock will hit the Earth before any further steps are taken.
Gareth Williams, associate director of the Minor Planet Center, said,
Usually “…when we get further observations, the possibility of an impact disappears or the possibility of a very close approach disappears,”
Earth is not an attractive target for the floating balls of destruction, but in case anything does enter our atmosphere, NASA will then notify the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. And of course, a press release will be issued soon after that.
“Since the work is all done in the open, the observations and orbits are available over the internet if you know where to look. Folks on the internet would probably be talking about it before we get to the point where we can put a public notice out.”
So what can they do if they finally agree that a rock is coming for us? Not much to be honest. Scientists have mapped the orbits covering about 90 percent of NEOs sizing 1 kilometer or larger in a bid to be prepared, the fact is that they don’t have the technology to avert the crisis.
NASA has been looking into ways to deflect or destroy the asteroid, with theories ranging from shooting lasers at the asteroid to blowing it up using missiles, but no method has been tested in space yet.
NASA and the European Space Agency have also started a new mission called the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA), which would divert an asteroid using an impactor, but it too is still under development.