This area will cover relevant news of the threat to the planet from Near Earth Objects (NEOs) including concepts and designs for mitigation. All opinions are those of the author.

13 March 2007

NASA Report on NEOs Finally Available to the Public

The Near-Earth Object Survey and Definition Analysis of Alternatives report is finally available. This was a Report to Congress delivered in March 2007 and discussed all last week at the 2007 Planetary Defense Conference

Link: Report Site
Link: Report (.PDF)

From the Report Site...

Section 321 of the NASA Authorization Act of 2005 (Public Law No. 109-155), also known as the George E. Brown, Jr. Near-Earth Object Survey Act, directs the NASA Administrator to transmit an initial report to Congress not later than one year after the date of enactment that provides: (1) an analysis of possible alternatives that NASA may employ to carry out the survey program of near-Earth Objects (NEO), including ground- based and space-based alternatives with technical descriptions; (2) a recommended option and proposed budget to carry out the survey program pursuant to the recommended option; and (3) an analysis of possible alternatives that NASA could employ to divert an object on a likely collision course with Earth.

The objectives of the George E. Brown, Jr. NEO Survey Program are to detect, track, catalogue, and characterize the physical characteristics of NEOs equal to or larger than 140 meters in diameter with a perihelion distance of less than 1.3 AU (Astronomical Units) from the Sun, achieving 90 percent completion of the survey within 15 years after enactment of the NASA Authorization Act of 2005. The Act was signed into law by President Bush on December 30, 2005.

A study team, led by NASA's Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation (PA&E), conducted the analysis of alternatives with inputs from several other U.S. government agencies, international organizations, and representatives of private organizations. The team developed a range of possible options from public and private sources and then analyzed their capabilities and levels of performance including development schedules and technical risks.

Key Findings for Diverting a Potentially Hazardous Object (PHO):
The study team assessed a series of approaches that could be used to divert a NEO potentially on a collision course with Earth. Nuclear explosives, as well as non-nuclear options, were assessed.

  • Nuclear standoff explosions are assessed to be 10-100 times more effective than the non-nuclear alternatives analyzed in this study. Other techniques involving the surface or subsurface use of nuclear explosives may be more efficient, but they run an increased risk of fracturing the target NEO. They also carry higher development and operations risks.

  • Non-nuclear kinetic impactors are the most mature approach and could be used in some deflection/mitigation scenarios, especially for NEOs that consist of a single small, solid body.

  • "Slow push" mitigation techniques are the most expensive, have the lowest level of technical readiness, and their ability to both travel to and divert a threatening NEO would be limited unless mission durations of many years to decades are possible.

  • 30-80 percent of potentially hazardous NEOs are in orbits that are beyond the capability of current or planned launch systems. Therefore, planetary gravity assist swingby trajectories or on-orbit assembly of modular propulsion systems may be needed to augment launch vehicle performance, if these objects need to be deflected.
Recommended Survey Program
Currently, NASA carries out the "Spaceguard Survey" to find NEOs greater than 1 kilometer in diameter, and this program is currently budgeted at $4.1 million per year for FY 2006 through FY 2012. We also have benefited from knowledge gained in our Discovery space mission series, such as the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR), Deep Impact, and Stardust missions that have expanded our knowledge of near-Earth asteroids and comets. Participation by NASA in international collaborations such as Japan's Hayabusa mission to the NEO "Itokawa" also greatly benefited our understanding of these objects. NASA's Dawn mission, expected to launch in June 2007, will increase our understanding of the two largest known main belt asteroids, Ceres and Vesta, between the planets Mars and Jupiter. NASA conducts survey programs on many celestial objects - the existing Spaceguard program for NEOs, surveys for Kuiper Belt Objects, the search for extra-solar planets, and other objects of interest such as black holes to understand the origins of our universe. Our Discovery mission series in planetary science may offer additional opportunities in the future beyond our current survey efforts.

NASA recommends that the program continue as currently planned, and we will also take advantage of opportunities using potential dual-use telescopes and spacecraft - and partner with other agencies as feasible - to attempt to achieve the legislated goal within 15 years. However, due to current budget constraints, NASA cannot initiate a new program at this time.


  1. There is virtually no one in the NEO "community" who feels that this report is valid. It is filled with unjustifiable assumptions, incorrect information, and factual errors.

  2. Virtually the entire professional NEO "community" have serious reservations on this report. It is filled with factual errors and unjustified assumptions rendering the conclusions essentially incredible.


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