Coronavirus pandemic can help us prepare for dangerous asteroid impact

With the world coming together to battle the deadly coronavirus, experts claim the emergency “preparedness activity” can help us deal with an incoming asteroid.

Tackling the coronavirus pandemic has shown nations how to deal with a global emergency, from implementing strict lockdowns to cooperating with other states to a certain extent.

Understanding things that have gone right and wrong in the battle with Covid-19 has taught us valuable lessons, according to asteroid scientists and an authority on emergency preparedness, reports Space.com.

Thomas Jones, a scientist, author and retired NASA astronaut who also chairs the Association of Space Explorers’ Near Earth Objects Committee said: “Speaking for myself, the novel coronavirus is a good case study of mistakes to avoid when planning to prevent an asteroid impact.”



Mr Jones also added that from the response, it can be understood what went wrong – for example, with nations choosing their own responses, some in their own interest, resources and manufacturing priorities were met with some delays.

“This is understandable, but it’s not a good model for dealing with an asteroid impact threat. A fragmented, staggered and uneven response to an impact threat is a recipe for delay and inaction, foreclosing options to deflect the asteroid,” Jones told Space.com.

He added: “We’ll need transparent sharing of all observations of the object, and international vetting of all the impact predictions.



Coronavirus pandemic can help us prepare for dangerous asteroid impact

“Any required deflection campaign will only succeed if an internationally supported consortium develops and carries out the effort, with ongoing, shared insight into every step of development.”

He believes, unlike tackling the pandemic which means nations had an uneven response according to each individual state, there will need to be “open cooperation.”

If nations defend themselves unilaterally, it could lead to losing time and resources and in turn lead to an increased risk of failure when dealing with a dangerous asteroid.

He said: “Open cooperation gives us the best chance to assess the threat properly, mount a series of credible deflection missions [if needed] and turn away an impact catastrophe.”

Additionally, there are parallels between the pandemic and a hazardous asteroid impact.

According to Lindley Johnson, NASA’s Planetary Defense Officer and Program Executive of the space agency’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), she said: “The first is, of course, the importance of early detection.

“The earlier you detect the threat, the more chance you have to take actions to prevent it before it can have a significant impact.”

She added the possibility of a devastating asteroid impact is inevitable, much like the possibility of another dangerous disease.

She said: “The question is just when. This makes prudent actions important to be prepared — stockpiling of medical supplies and equipment in the case of pandemics; having adequately tested several measures for deflection in the case of asteroids.”

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