© unknownHypothetical asteroid to hit Earth
NASA has found in a hypothetical exercise that an asteroid has a 72 percent chance of hitting Earth - and it may happen sooner rather than later.

In a hypothetical scenario posed to a group of nearly 100 government representatives, NASA found that their plan to combat the asteroid hurtling towards Earth had several "high-level gaps," according to their presentation.

They said space officials have "limited readiness to quickly implement needed space missions," and methods to keep the public informed on the impending disaster are not fully developed.

Participants from federal agencies including the State Department and the UN's Office for Outer Space Affairs responded to NASA's findings, with 33 percent saying humanity was not prepared to launch a space mission to prevent an asteroid from impacting the planet.

Nineteen percent also said "reconnaissance missions" were not ready.

Kelly Fast, NASA's acting planetary defense officer, said the exercise will help government agencies plan to prepare for a potential future asteroid strike. Fast said to USA Today: "In the unlikely event we ever face a scenario like this, it won't be the first time that anybody's talked about how to treat this."

The exercise, which was organized by NASA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in April, marked the fifth test to gauge whether authorities are prepared to defend Earth from space.

In their hypothetical scenario:
An asteroid will collide with the Earth in 2038 - 14 years from now. The collision would have a 47 percent chance of affecting more than 1,000 people and an 8 percent chance of affecting more than one million.

The exercise shows that the asteroid could strike major cities across the US, Europe, and Africa, including Washington, DC, Dallas, Madrid, and Algiers.

Further observations about the asteroid would hypothetically be delayed by at least seven months as the asteroid passed behind the Sun, which would be "a critical loss of time," according to NASA's news release.
Fast said: "When you talk about planning a mission, any kind of spacecraft mission, it doesn't happen on a dime. Even though 14 years sounds like a long time, it actually might not be when you think of developing missions."

In 2022, NASA conducted a test of heading off an asteroid on its way to Earth by crashing a spacecraft into Dimorphos, a small "moonlet" orbiting the asteroid Didymos around 6.8 million miles from Earth. The test successfully shortened the moonlet's orbit by 32 minutes, NASA said.

Further testing on the asteroid scenario remains "unclear" as some participants were skeptical of sufficient federal funding and the ability to gather enough information about the incoming asteroid.

NASA also warned that coordinating the release of information to the public about an asteroid flying towards the planet would pose problems. They wrote: "Misinformation and disinformation would have to be dealt with."

Fast said it would be important to "turn information into something that is understandable to the public, and not to be overly technical and jargon-y."

But Fast gave reassurance:
"Scientists are only preparing for the unlikely event of an asteroid collision and the scenario was just a chance to continue to explore these possibilities and our own readiness, and to identify how we can do better in the future."