On the asteroid threat

Winston

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NASA can’t find most of the asteroids threatening Earth, but it has a plan

https://qz.com/1310539/nasa-cant-find-most-asteroids-that-might-hit-earth/

NASA cites the 1908 airburst of a 40 to 60 meter asteroid over Tunguska, Russia, which leveled 2,000 square kilometers of forest. If that were to happen over New York City, it would cause millions of casualties.

NASA says it would be unlikely to detect an near-Earth object of this size with more than a few days of warning. That’s why the first big action item in this report is for NASA, the US Air Force and the National Science Foundation to come up with a plan to invest in new telescopes to hunt these asteroids.

The amount of funds available for Planetary Protection is increasing, with the Trump administration requesting $150 million from lawmakers next year, mostly to fund a mission to demonstrate a spacecraft called DART that could deflect an Earth-bound asteroid. But strangely, Johnson would not discuss specific technologies for hunting asteroids during the media briefing on the report.

One option is NEOCam, a proposed telescope that would hunt for asteroids. But that program may be under stress now that important questions are being raised about its predecessor project, called NEOWise. That effort used a different telescope to measure near-Earth objects, but Nathan Myhrvold, a former Microsoft technologist with a Ph.d in physics, has challenged the results, publishing a new peer-reviewed paper arguing that they are far more uncertain than NASA’s researchers suggest.

Johnson didn’t have much to say about the controversy when asked by a reporter, saying the NEOWise data “is extensively utilized by the overall scientific community as the best data available on the population of near-Earth asteroids as we know them.”


Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Mission

https://www.nasa.gov/planetarydefense/dart

near-earth-asteroid-survey-progress-2017-NASA.jpeg
 

Peartree

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My question is, why is the search for planet killing asteroids a national, and not an international, project?
 

MClark

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At LDRS the speaker was Steve Jurvetson, Spacex. One topic he touched on was asteroid defense. They are working on a system of their own to early detect using many sensors orbiting out past Mars. Cost about $400M, half the cost of a football stadium.
Current earth based sensors are useless, detection way too late. I recall recently a few objects that were big and detected just a few days out, not enough time for NASA to decide doughnuts or bagels for the meetings..

M
 

Winston

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My question is, why is the search for planet killing asteroids a national, and not an international, project?
I suspect that they think we're doing a fine job (we are) and are willing to let us pay for it while reaping the benefits.
 

BA_Incognito

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One thing to remember is that all disasters are local. Doesn't matter if it impacts a city, county, state, nation or continent, it is still a local disaster and a local response, as the local responders will need to respond to their part of the incident. One of the goals of this plan is to "Develop protocols for notifying The White House and Congress (including briefing appropriate subcommittees), State and Local governments, the public, foreign governments, and other international organizations, regarding NEO threats." This is important in order to develop a coordinated response to the disaster. While a NEO object can wipe out a continent, it can also be small enough to simply create a loud bang and blow out windows (Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013). It can also be somewhere in-between, as they show the impact of a Tunguska event imposed over New York City. Such an event would be devastating, but would also be a 'local event' that would be the responsibility of local governments and responder agencies to respond to. The communication piece (just one part of the plan) is key for local officials.

They also state "The United States will strengthen and exercise procedures and protocols for assessing NEO threats, communication regarding threats, and response and recovery activities." This is just as important, as there is a need to first understand the threat, then plan for the threat, then exercise the plan. These types of activities will better prepare the local emergency agencies to better respond to any such event.

This reminds me of when they first started talking about planning to respond to a nuclear incident, especially after 9-11. At first it was like, "Why bother. If the bomb goes off I won't be here." But then when folks started to understand the issue, such as "What if it is a 'dirty bomb'?" (conventional explosive laced with nuclear material - say stolen from a hospital) it became more plausible. This is an event that you will need to respond to, and so you better start to prepare.

NEO is very similar.
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