There is no denying that Hollywood executives have been milking the asteroid disaster movie trope for decades. From the Blockbuster hits like "Armageddon" to "Deep Impact" like duds, the story remains the same - an Earth left to fend for itself following a large celestial object colliding with the planet. While to most the idea is nothing more than science fiction, it seems like the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA consider an asteroid collision a serious threat.
Late last week in January 7, NASA officially announced the institution of an formal division responsible for keeping track of all data involving asteroids and comets that come into close contact with the planet. More than accumulating information about Near-Earth Objects, the department known as "Planetary Defense Coordination Office" or "PDCO" is also in charge of coordinating international governing bodies in the event of a comet or asteroid impact.
NASA's Lindley Johnson, who has now been instituted as PDCO's lead program executive officer, has since spoken about the importance of the establishment of the department. According to Johnson, PDCO is a testament to NASA's efforts to keep the planet safe from naturally occurring catastrophic events.
"The formal establishment of the Planetary Defense 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 defense" quipped Johnson.
Contrary to public belief, the planet comes close to more than its fair share of comets, asteroids and other celestial bodies each year. NASA keeps a well-documented record of Near-Earth Objects or NEOs that might pose a risk to the planet in the next century. The registry charts not only the possible date of impact but also the size of the NEO. The list can be viewed here.