(CN) — Exercising his authority beyond the bounds of Earth, President Barack Obama signed an executive order Thursday to prepare the federal government for potential issues stemming from the effects of space weather events.
Space weather, a general term that includes phenomena like solar flares, can wreak havoc on the electrical power grid, GPS systems, satellites and other technology crucial for modern life.
Such storms can take down parts of the power grid, which can "simultaneously affect and disrupt health and safety across entire continents," according to the executive order.
The directive outlines the responsibilities of various executive branch agencies in preparing for and responding to space weather events. The agencies include Defense, Commerce, Energy and NASA, which will coordinate to improve their ability to forecast such events and protect critical infrastructure from disruptions.
"It is the policy of the United States to prepare for space weather events to minimize the extent of economic loss and human hardship," the executive order says.
Obama signed the order as he prepared for a Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh, where he planned to announce $300 million in spending on a variety of projects designed to keep the United States at the forefront of technological innovation, including understanding Alzheimer's disease and putting a person on Mars.
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