Developed with supervisors Peter Atkinson and Hugh Lewis, NEOMiSS would give governments an idea about the resilience of a given region to an asteroid or comet impact. By doing this, areas can be identified that may need infrastructure upgrades - to support a mass evacuation from a city, say.
"Earth-threatening NEOs may be discovered days or years before an impact, giving us the chance to launch a deflection mission or evacuate an area," explains Norlund.
"Ideally, important decisions about such a mission should be based on a number of factors, including how the deflection will change the probability of impact and its likely consequences."
Norlund touches on an important point here - if we did have enough time to make an NEO deflection attempt, would the resulting deflection be enough to direct the spinning chunk of space rock away from Earth? If not, would it be better to take the hit if its predicted impact zone is sparsely populated?
As I mentioned in a previous Discovery News article, what if a deflection attempt goes awry, and the asteroid gets redirected in a way that wasn't predicted? Could saving one city, such as Los Angleles, knock the asteroid on a collision course with Moscow? World wars have been sparked over much less.