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.

08 November 2007

Planetary Society Statement on Arecibo Radio Telescope

Selections from the Planetary Society Statement:

Arecibo is caught in a bureaucratic argument. The Arecibo Observatory is a National Science Foundation (NSF) operation, but they consider the subject of NEOs and planetary radar to be in NASA’s bailiwick. NASA supports ground-based astronomy, and supported the Arecibo radar for many years, but the agency now objects to picking up the funding of what is currently an NSF program.

The House Science and Technology Committee has been the leading government advocate for understanding the nature and possible treat from objects (NEOs) that might impact the Earth. In the past, the committee has had to direct NASA to provide increased support to this area. The Planetary Society has no position on whether this should be a NSF program or a NASA program; but, we strongly feel that it should be an American program with congressional support. We urge you to provide such support to keep the Arecibo planetary radar operating.

The Planetary Society recently conducted a privately funded, international competition to design a mission to tag the asteroid Apophis, in case its Earth approach is close enough to require higher accuracy tracking. The competition attracted thirty-seven proposals and has generated much public interest.

The cost of a tagging mission to Apophis would be at least $100 million – and the only way to know if such a mission is necessary is to refine the current estimate of Apophis’ orbit with the powerful adar tracking of a telescope like Arecibo. Avoiding one unnecessary tagging mission would more than pay back any investment of funds to keep Arecibo open. And if some object out there really is on a collision course with Earth and we don’t have the means to track it properly, the price we would pay would be astronomical.

Link: Planetary Society Press Release

Link: Planetary Society Arecibo Statement

Link: Planetary Society PDF Document

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