NASA has announced that they are formalizing the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (or PDCO), an initiative tasked with detecting and keeping tabs on Near-Earth Objects (or NEOs). NEOs are loosely defined as any object that finds itself hurtling near and/or towards Earth — be it a comet or an asteroid — and the PDCO will be responsible for identifying said projectiles, categorizing them and coordinating deflection, destruction, and emergency evacuation procedures should the NEO find itself on a collision course with our planet.
The office has been organized in order to prevent a repeat of 2013’s Chelyabinsk incident, where an undetected asteroid hit the remote Russian city with the force of over 500,000 tons of TNT. The Chelyabinsk fireball evaded detection and caused a panic over the lack of response and preparation from NASA, who have since amped up their NEO detection budget from $4 million USD to over $50 million USD — this coincides with its recent advancements in technology such as a self-healing material and its efforts to send astronauts to the ISS via SpaceX.
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