By Sarah Kaplan
Imagine if scientists found out that a massive asteroid was on a collision course with Earth and would strike somewhere near Los Angeles by September 2020. What could humanity do?
Not much. At least, that was the result of a day-long tabletop exercise coordinated by NASA and FEMA late last month. In their hypothetical scenario, the space agency concluded that the 330-foot space rock was approaching too quickly to mount a deflection mission. The team from FEMA was left to figure out how to evacuate millions of people from Southern California.
This was a purely fictional exercise. NASA has discovered some 17,000 potentially hazardous near-Earth objects, but none of them is projected to come close to Earth in the next hundred years. No human that we know of has been killed by a meteorite or the effects of an impact, and the likelihood that this could happen to any of us is very, very slim. The chance of an impact big enough to destroy our planet is even smaller. Remember that Earth has suffered only one mass extinction-inducing impact that we know of in its 4.6 billion-year history, and even that asteroid didn’t end life entirely. Our planet is pretty resilient.
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