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.

16 March 2007

Roundup of recent flurry of articles on Planetary Defense

Since the 2007 Planetary Defense Conference in early March 2007 there is a flurry of online media articles on this issue. Instead of separate posts for each article I have listed below many of them in this one post (with relevant passages from said sources). The article it seemed most often referenced in domestic U.S. newspaper websites was an early [right as the 2007 Planetary Defense Conference was starting] Associated Press article entitled: "NASA Can't Pay for Killer Asteroid Hunt".

"NASA Can't Pay for Killer Asteroid Hunt"
Seth Borenstein
Associated Press (AP)
05 March 2007

Selections from the article...

NASA officials say the space agency is capable of finding nearly all the asteroids that might pose a devastating hit to Earth, but there isn't enough money to pay for the task so it won't get done. The cost to find at least 90 percent of the 20,000 potentially hazardous asteroids and comets by 2020 would be about $1 billion, according to a report NASA will release later this week. The report was previewed Monday at a Planetary Defense Conference in Washington.

"We know what to do, we just don't have the money," said Simon "Pete" Worden, director of NASA's Ames Research Center.

Link: Article (, 05 March 2007)

Link: Posting of Article on Slashdot and Reactions of Their Readers


"When the Sky Falls, Where Will NASA Be?"
Scientific American (SCIAM) Blog, Editors of Scientific American
13 March 2007

Selections from the article...

Everybody duck and cover. Last week NASA shrugged and told Congress that it neither has the funding nor the resources to meet its goal of identifying 90 percent of near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) 150 yards or more in diameter by 2020.

It seems that NASA has passed the buck it claims it doesn't have to other space agencies, institutions and facilities, saying NEA tracking is not a question of feasibility but funding. This includes not having available dedicated telescopes, including the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico, which will probably close or have its operations severely downgraded by 2011. (See this and this.) It is bad enough that we may lose Arecibo, which is one of the best-suited for the job of planetary watchdog, but NASA says it will have to rely on the kindness of others to do even the preliminary work to meet the goals called for by Congress in NASA's 2005 authorization bill.

And, though a killer-asteroid is not currently on track to vaporize Pretoria or Peoria or anywhere, at least as far as we know, it did not say who exactly would be funding research on NEA diversion and destruction technology should this situation ever visit itself upon the only planet we have. NASA's balk, according to a March 9 story in the Washington Post did not sit too well with Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), the chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology, who said: "We are still reviewing the report, but it's clear that NASA's recommended approach isn't a credible plan to achieve the goal specified in the NASA Authorization Act." The Committee will continue to pursue this issue in the coming year with the goal of obtaining a more responsive approach," he declared.

It is a sad day when our premier agency of exploration shows less imagination and foresight than an elected government official.

Link: Scientific American (SCIAM) Blog

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