Jeremy Hsu - National emergency plans for natural disasters can also work in the unlikely scenario of an asteroid strike on the U.S., according to a letter to Congress by the White House's top science adviser, SPACE.com has learned.
The 10-page letter by John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, adds that the U.S. has a responsibility to the world as the country most capable of detecting space rocks that threaten Earth. The Oct. 15 letter obtained by SPACE.com is addressed to the leaders of the House Committee on Science and Technology.
Holdren states that NASA must continue leading efforts to close the gap in detecting and perhaps deflecting near-Earth objects (NEO). The U.S. space agency already has the duty of alerting the rest of the government about any threatening space objects.
Holdren's letter also laid out the duties of other federal agencies in handling emergency communications and response. It called for a "senior-level interagency simulation exercise" to test impact-response plans before the United States is confronted with an actual asteroid impact.
"My immediate reaction is that it represents the most detailed consideration of the U.S. government's response to the NEO threat to date, more clearly delineating communication links and responsibilities than had previously been the case," said Clark Chapman, space scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. ...
According to Holdren's letter, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, under the Department of Homeland Security, has the main responsibility on the ground in the U.S. FEMA can rely in part upon the National Warning System, which was designed to alert U.S. citizens to a Cold War nuclear attack.
The Department of Defense would work with NASA on possible mitigation or deflection scenarios that involved military resources.
Meanwhile, the Department of State would help coordinate any international warnings or responses in a deep-impact scenario that affects more than just the U.S. It has experience notifying other countries about re-entering human-made space objects, including the defunct USA-193 spy satellite that was ultimately destroyed by a U.S. Navy missile.
"The United States is currently the world leader in NEO detection activities and will have a vital role to play in such communications, irrespective of whether the direct risk to the United States or its territories is considered low," Holdren said. ...
via U.S. Must Be Ready to Meet Asteroid Threat, White House Science Adviser Says - Yahoo! News.