Tracking and analyzing asteroids is nothing new for NASA, who in January 2016 established a new division tasked with following these near-Earth objects. The planetary defense coordination office has had two years to plan how to best deal with potential threats from space and formulate an emergency response, which involves a number of federal agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as well as the White House. However, this will be the first time NASA can execute the “front end” of the system, which has only been drawn out on paper up to this point, Kelley says. NASA will test out the efficacy of its communication with a worldwide network of agencies and facilities through a chain of command all the way up to the White House. Although there are a lot of players involved across the network, Kelley says agencies have been receptive to helping NASA simulate a real-time situation. Scientists have the technology, which includes long-range telescopes, infrared radars, and satellite images, to get the best possible reading of what an asteroid looks like and where it’s heading long before it would put Earth in danger. But this upcoming drill involves a key component — a real live asteroid. atchTV.

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