NASA’s new agency will deal with the threats of potentially hazardous asteroids.
Its new Planetary Defence Coordination Office (PCDO) will be assigned the task of identifying asteroids which run the risk of putting an end to humanity.
Lindley Johnson, lead program executive for the PCDO, said: “The formal establishment of the Planetary Defence Coordination Office makes it evident that the agency is committed to perform a leadership role in national and international efforts for detection of these natural impact hazards, and to be engaged in planning if there is a need for planetary defence.”
Part of the new team’s objective will be to develop and implement new technology which can be used to deflect or redirect asteroids that are on a collision course with Earth.
Every year, around 1,500 near-earth objects are detected.
Although the majority of them prove to be harmless, the chances of one striking our planet increases as time goes by.
Recent incidents have been a cause for concern, such as the Chelyabinsk incident in 2013, when a meteor entered the atmosphere above the Russian city, which exploded in mid-air and damage buildings and trees.
The meteorite went undetected, and if bigger could have caused a lot more damage.
John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said: “Asteroid detection, tracking and defence of our planet is something that NASA, its interagency partners, and the global community take very seriously.
“While there are no known impact threats at this time, the 2013 Chelyabinsk super-fireball and the recent ‘Halloween Asteroid’ close approach remind us of why we need to remain vigilant and keep our eyes to the sky.”
Nasa hasn’t designated much of its budget to asteroid detection, but the new administration will see the amount being ploughed into searching for near-earth objects rise from just $4m (£2.7m) to $50m.