28 February 2007
FOX 31 Colorado's Good Day morning show captured this amazing footage a meteor or space debris breaking up in the atmosphere during their Thursday morning show on January 4.
27 February 2007
(99942) Apophis images taken by the Sormano Astronomical Observatory (Italy).
Link: Sormano Astronomical Observatory List of Imaged Objects (CCD images taken at Sormano on 30 December 2004)
The Planetary Society is teaming with the Planetary Defense Conference to present a public event on the asteroid threat. From their announcement...
If an asteroid has Earth's name on it, how can we erase it? Earth's name -- not the asteroid! On Tuesday, March 6, The Planetary Society will team with the Planetary Defense Conference, a gathering of world experts occurring that week in Washington, to present "Earth Defense 101: Saving the Planet from a Killer Asteroid."
7:00-9:00 PM George Washington University Marvin Center Ballroom, 3rd floor 800 21st Street NW Washington, DCA distinguished panel will discuss NEOs and planetary defense from many angles. Speakers include:
- Rusty Schweickart, Apollo astronaut
- Tom Jones, former shuttle astronaut
- Don Yeomans, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
- Louis Friedman, Planetary Society Executive Director
Link: Planetary Society Website Annoucement
26 February 2007
Link: c-span.org (booktv.org) video of Neil deGrasse Tyson talking about his new book, Death By Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries
Link: booktv.org direct video link
25 February 2007
Here is an article from Richard Gray in the UK on the upcoming 2007 Planetary Defense Conference. It also includes a highlight of the MADMEN multiple mass driver concept that has been developed at my home organization, SpaceWorks Engineering, Inc. (SEI).
"Hollywood got it wrong, this is how you stop an apocalyptic asteroid"
25 February 2007
Link: Article from UK Sunday Telegraph
Link: Article from Sydney Morning Herald
23 February 2007
UAH Laser Science and Engineering Group (LSEG), headed by Dr. Richard Fork, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is conducting research into characterizing and deflecting asteroids that may endanger Earth.
The research has students excited about using lasers for space-related applications. Graduate student Blake Anderton wrote his master's thesis on "Application of Mode-locked lasers to asteroid characterization and mitigation." Undergraduate Gordon Aiken won a prize at a recent student conference for his poster and presentation "Space positioned LIDAR system for characterization and mitigation of Near Earth Objects." And members of the group are building a laser system "that is the grandfather of the laser that will push the asteroids," Fork said.
Fork said the current research relates back to work he performed in the mid-1980s, when he and other researchers at AT&T Bell Laboratories developed the first femtosecond lasers. They used one of the lasers to ablate material by ultra-intense laser pulses with femtosecond time resolution ("Femtosecond imaging of melting and evaporation at a photo excited silicon surface," M. C. Downer, R.L. Fork and C.V. Shank, Journal of the Optical Society of America B2,595-599 (1985)).
"The laser we are developing now is also being developed to ablate materials," Fork said, but the device would be "a substantial distance" from the target. The system includes an argon laser, a mode-locked Ti-sapphire oscillator, a regenerative Ti-sapphire amplifier, a doubled neodymium-yag pulsed laser and helium-neon line-up lasers, according to Dr. Fork.
The short-term goal of the work is "to amplify femtosecond pulses to high peak power at high average power for remote sensing," using unique features associated with the high pulse intensity, Fork said. The work is funded by the U.S. Army and involves a local company that employs several of Fork's former students. The research does not concern characterizing or deflecting asteroids, but Fork sees a connection.
22 February 2007
Both Lindley Johnson (NASA Headquarters) and Donald Yeomans (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory) are scheduled to talk about this report at the upcoming 2007 Planetary Defense Conference.
- Near Earth Objects Observation (NEOO) Programme
Mr. Lindley Johnson (NASA Headquarters, USA)
Link: Powerpoint Presentation
- Deflecting NEOs: A Pending International Challenge
Mr. Rusty Schweickart (ASE)
Link: Powerpoint Presentation
- NEO Research Activities in Korea: 2006
Mr. Won-yong Han (Republic of Korea)
Link: Powerpoint Presentation
- Prospect of Russia in the International Cooperation on the Asteroid/Comet Impact Hazard Problem
Mr Boris Shustov (Russian Federation)
Link: Powerpoint Presentation
- Possible Approaches to Implementation of "Citadel-1" International Planetary Defence System Project
Mr Anatoliy Zaitsev (Russian Federation)
Link: Powerpoint Presentation
- NEO Research Activities at the DLR-Institute of Planetary Research, Berlin
Mr. Ekkehard Kührt (DLR, Germany)
Link: Powerpoint Presentation
- Status Report of AT 14 Near-Earth Objects
Mr. R. Crowther (United Kingdom)
Link: Powerpoint Presentation
Link: All Presentations at 44th Session
19 February 2007
- "Asteroid Orbits and Collision Probabilities"
(Steven Chesley, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, USA)
- "Apophis and International Policy Implications"
(Russell Schweickart, Association of Space Explorers, Tiburon, CA, USA)
Apophis and International Policy Implications. Apophis is a near-Earth asteroid whose orbital characteristics have forced the astronomical community and those concerned with protection of the Earth from NEO impacts to grapple with complex and subtle issues well beyond what was assumed prior to its discovery. Among the many sobering realizations which soon became apparent was the locus of potential impact points stretching across the face of the planet should the asteroid actually impact Earth on Friday, April 13, 2029. This path of risk (PoR), stretched almost 270 degrees around the Earth passing directly over the UK, across the European heartland, just along the northern border of Turkey, and on across Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and southeast Asia. There were, at a minimum, 16 nations whose populations were potentially at risk. Were the early probabilities of impact to prevail, the debate over how mitigating actions were to be taken and who was to take them would have been fearsome. The fortunate discovery of a marginal observation of the asteroid nine months prior, and its integration into the orbit determination led to the probability of its 2029 potential impact dropping to zero. Apophis did not totally leave the scene however since its 2029 pass by Earth will be unusually close (within the geostationary orbit) thereby setting up a potential return of the asteroid for a subsequent impact in 2036. In this instance, should the impact occur, the PoR extends from Siberia, down across the Pacific north of Hawaii, skirting the Mexican coastline and crossing Central America along the northern Costa Rican border. After passing down the northeastern South American coastline it passes out into the Atlantic terminating just off the West African coast. In this instance, while the PoR crosses fewer international borders an impact in the Pacific (the most probable circumstance) would result in a Pacific tsunami of historic proportions. This paper examines the sobering international policy implications of the many choices which would confront the world community were Apophis to follow such a course. By analog Apophis is indeed representative of all NEOs which threaten an impact with Earth and for which, in many cases, choices will have to be made prior to the time that an impact is certain. The paper will argue that the United Nations is the appropriate international institution that must confront these choices and that it is highly likely that such choices will have to be made prior to 2020 due to the acceleration anticipated in the NEO discovery rate.
- "Asteroid Deflection Options: Limitations and Implications"
(Edward Lu, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, USA)
Abstract: Asteroid Deflection: The Cosmic Do No Harm Principle. We argue that an important consideration when faced with the prospect of deflecting a threatening asteroid is the “Cosmic Do No Harm Principle”, which states that non-controllable or non-predictable deflection methods are to be avoided if possible. The case of asteroid Apophis offers a good illustration. Two proposed deflection methods, kinetic impactors and nuclear bombs, violate this principle since we cannot be certain that they will not fracture the asteroid or put it through a different collision keyhole with Earth, and therefore worsen the situation. Since the deflection velocity in this case is very small, a much better option is a Gravitational Tractor which can controllably steer Apophis away from an impact keyhole with Earth.
- "Asteroid Impacts and Public Responses to Low Probability Threats"
(Paul Slovic, Decision Research, Eugene, OR, USA)
Link: AAAS Annual Meeting
Highlights from the article...
Beginning in the next few months, Schweickart's group will host a series of meetings to provide the UN with a 'decision process' for assessing and acting on the hazard posed by Apophis and other near-Earth asteroids (NEAs). A draft document ready for consideration by the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space is expected by 2009.
Lu's favoured option is called a gravitational tractor. It involves placing a relatively massive spacecraft near enough to an approaching asteroid to shift its trajectory using only the minuscule force of gravity between the two objects. Although the method requires significant lead time and will not work in all cases, it has the advantage of controlling a hazardous object "in one piece", say Lu.
According to Lu, Apophis is particularly amenable to this form of manoeuvring. Prior to its threatening approach in 2036, the asteroid will sweep past Earth in the spring of 2029. Any change in the asteroid's position before this will be greatly magnified by the 2029 encounter, which could, in turn, eliminate the chance of an impact in 2036.
Such a mission could succeed with a 1-metric-tonne spacecraft arriving at Apophis as late as 2027, says Schweickart, who envisions a protocol that would allow the UN to 'contract' the world's space agencies to remove the threat."Asteroid threat demands response, experts warn"
Ivan Semeniuk, San Francisco
17 February 2007
13 February 2007
Scientists such as Stephen Hawking warn that their relatively close proximity presents grave dangers to humankind, a point of view supported in a number of recent books, such as William Burrows' The Survival Imperative: Using Space to Save Earth and British astronomer royal Martin Rees' Our Final Hour: A Scientist's Warning.
In December, NASA astronaut Edward Lu told Space.com that plans under study include landing on an asteroid and retrieving rock samples for return to Earth before 2020.
And at NASA's Ames Research Center, lab chief Simon "Pete" Worden, a longtime advocate of such exploration, has set aside $10 million for designing small spacecraft that could visit asteroids, according to the Jan. 19 Science magazine.
The space agency does have a few asteroid missions already planned. In its just-released 2008 budget, NASA said it is studying a mission, dubbed the Origins Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security (OSIRIS) probe, to return rock samples from an asteroid.
For something a bit sooner, [NASA scientist David] Morrison will describe a Near-Earth Asteroid Trailblazing (NEAT) probe, low-cost landers designed to flit among nearby asteroids, scouting their surfaces, at a March American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics meeting.
"Asteroids have been a low priority for too long," says Burrows, The Survival Imperative author, who calls for long-term space colonies to serve as a refuge for humanity if there's a catastrophic collision. "People worry about terrorism, with good reason, but while it doesn't do to get over-excited, there are bigger threats."
Asteroid defense gets a hearing next month at an American Association for the Advancement of Science symposium in San Francisco. With new telescopes in Chile and Hawaii coming online, astronomers expect Near-Earth asteroids to turn up nearly 100 times more often than today's rate of discovery.
13 February 2007
12 February 2007
Comment by the Author [Surendra Verma, Melbourne, Australia] to a book review [05 December 2005]: I enjoyed the review, but would like to point out that (a) my book is a popular science book and as such it's strictly scientific; (b) the book changes its 'tone' after chapter 2 because that's the only way to discuss scientific theories; (c) in spite of the immense popularity of the event, unfortunately, there are no other interesting stories to tell (even in Russian literature); there is no other information out there unless I turned the narrative into a 'conspiracy theory' or UFO story; (d) the scientific community (as well as the Tunguska community, the large number of people around the world who are interested in the event) is very much divided on the final answer, and that's why the book ends with the words 'The jury is still out'; however, if your reviewer has read carefully, the chapter leads to the common scientific view (asteroid or comet); (e) we must note that many scientists are opposed to the asteroid and comet theories; (f) the dinosaurs' death is inextricably linked to Tunguska and this chapter adds value to the book (readers can always ignore it); and (g) the paperback edition of the book will be out in March 2006 in the UK (May 2006 in the US); it's titled 'The Mystery of the Tunguska Fireball' and includes some new material.
Link: Book Review
Link: Press Release
Japan's $100 million Hayabusa spacecraft could return to Earth as early as June 2010 if controllers can safely fire the craft's ion engines...The voyage is currently expected to begin in late March, said Hayabusa project manager Junichiro Kawaguchi.
Japan's $100 million Hayabusa spacecraft could return to Earth as early as June 2010 if controllers can safely fire the craft's ion engines...The voyage is currently expected to begin in late March..."We lost chemical fuels and thrusters aboard. We had lost two (reaction) wheels already. The spacecraft lost the battery as well. But the operation team made a great effort to restore the spacecraft," Kawaguchi said.
A sudden disturbance several weeks later cut off communications with the probe for more than six weeks and forced managers to postpone the start of the trip to Earth by a year. Officials blamed the loss of communications on a chemical fuel leak, and ground stations later established contact with Hayabusa.
Since regaining communications with the spacecraft, controllers have worked to bake off leaked fuel believed to have been deposited on the exterior of the probe. Ground stations also uplinked new attitude control software to help save xenon propellant used by the ion propulsion system. Ground teams also recently reconditioned Hayabusa's lithium batteries and closed the lid of the return capsule.
"Asteroid sampler spacecraft could attempt trip home"
Posted: 11 February 2007
11 February 2007
Talk: Deep Impact Mission with Mr. David Spencer (JPL)
David Spencer will discuss the challenges faced by the Deep Impact mission team during development and flight operations, and the science results returned by the mission.
Tuesday, 13 February 2007, 3-4 pm Eastern
Bill Moore Student Success Center
Georgia Institute of Technology
About the Deep Impact Project:
On July 4, 2005, the Deep Impact slammed a 372 kg impactor into comet Tempel-1 at a speed of more than 10 km/s, while the flyby spacecraft imaged the impact event and subsequent crater formation. The impact event was the climax of a six-year effort, in what became one of the highest-risk deep space missions yet flown by NASA and JPL. Deep Impact was the eighth in a series of low-cost, highly-focused space science investigations in NASA's Discovery Program. The mission was a partnership between the University of Maryland, the California Institute of Technology's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Ball Aerospace and Technology Corporation.
About Mr. David Spencer:
Mr David Spencer is currently the deputy project manager for the Phoenix Mars Lander. As the mission manager for the Deep Impact project, he was responsible for the day-to-day leadership of the flight team during development and operations. Prior to joining Deep Impact, he was the mission manager for the Mars Odyssey project, deputy manager of JPL's Flight System Section, and mission designer for Mars Pathfinder. Mr. Spencer has received two NASA Exceptional Achievement medals, and a NASA Exceptional Service medal. In 2004, he was given the Outstanding Aerospace Engineer Award from Purdue University. Mr. Spencer began working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1991, after receiving B.S. and M.S. degrees in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Purdue. He was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, and now resides with his wife and two sons in La Canada Flintridge, California.
10 February 2007
NASA Strategic Management Council Meeting: 2006 Near-Earth Object Survey and Deflection Study (Minutes from 01 November 2006 Meeting)
Source: NASA Strategic Management Council Meeting Minutes 01 November 2006
Seventh Item of Business: 2006 Near-Earth Object Survey and Deflection Study
Study lead Bill Claybaugh, Director of the PA&E Studies and Analysis Division, introduced the effort to derive requirements from Congressional direction to detect, track, catalogue and characterize potentially hazardous near-Earth objects (PHOs), and analyze the means to satisfy the Congressional goal of surveying 90% of these objects 140 meters in diameter and larger by the end of 2020. In addition, Congressional direction required an analysis of alternatives that could be employed to deflect a potentially hazardous object in the event it is determined to pose a threat to the Earth. He introduced study coordinator, Dan Mulville, and study executive, Marcus Shaw (Aerospace). Dan Mulville presented the study's major findings.
- Mulville reviewed the Congressional direction and defined terms, and stated that detection and characterization would each be addressed, but because no decision was required regarding mitigation, that portion of the study would not be covered in the briefing; an analysis of alternatives is included in the study report (provided to members on the council server).
- Detection: Mulville presented the technical analysis of the number of PHOs by size and described the performance of existing and possible ground- and space-based detection and tracking assets. He showed how various combinations of assets met the requirements, and what their relative life cycle costs would be. He characterized the increased need for data management.
- Characterization: Mulville stated that characterization may be needed to inform mitigation decisions, and showed how deflection options are linked to characterization capability options (both ground- and space-based). He reviewed the analysis of alternatives and relative cost-performance of each.
- Mulville closed by proposing questions: What recommended option for a detection, tracking, and cataloguing program should NASA make to Congress? What characterization should be included in the survey program in the absence of a national mitigation strategy?
Griffin complimented the thoroughness of the study. He stated that NASA is not funded to do anything more than the current detection program. Members discussed the origin of the congressional language and its intent. SMD Associate Administrator Mary Cleave suggested that NASA should not be in the business of building and operating ground-based telescopes but that portion of any program could be done in partnership with the National Science Foundation. Griffin stated his intent to provide the Agency's response to Congress by the due date of 28 December 2006.
SMC Action: Members will provide their comments on the Near-Earth Object Survey and Deflection Study to PA&E no later than 16 November 2006.Link: Spaceref Article
Note for the future: If an asteroid does wipe out most of the planet, head to Norway (they have the seeds)
From a BBC News article:
'The final design for a "doomsday" vault that will house seeds from all known varieties of food crops has been unveiled by the Norwegian government. The Svalbard International Seed Vault will be built into a mountainside on a remote island near the North Pole. The vault aims to safeguard the world's agriculture from future catastrophes, such as nuclear war, asteroid strikes and climate change. Construction begins in March, and the seed bank is scheduled to open in 2008. The Norwegian government is paying the $5m (£2.5m) construction costs of the vault, which will have enough space to house three million seed samples.'
Doomsday' vault design unveiled"
Mark Kinver, Science and nature reporter
09 February 2007
Link: BBC News Article
09 February 2007
"Also under a multi-year work plan, the Subcommittee will continue to consider the topic of near-Earth objects (NEOs), which include celestial bodies such as asteroids and meteors that may cross the Earth’s orbit. The Subcommittee will consider reports from Member States and international organizations on their near-Earth object activities, including space missions, search for NEOs and their tracking, as well as plans for future activity."
I would expect Rusty Schweickart to be at this upcoming meeting representing the NEO community. Also, the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) has a report on NEO research from multiple countries (Germany, Japan, Latvia, Poland, & United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland where those countries that responded). This report is obviously not complete but has some interesting snapshot of work in 2005 and 2006 on NEOs (mostly from Europe).
Link: Press Release from SpaceRef (08 February 9, 2007)
Link: National Research in the field of Near-Earth Objects (24 January 2007), A/AC.105/863/Add.2 (available in all official languages of the United Nations)
08 February 2007
05 February 2007
"Who will save Earth from an asteroid impact? Rusty has a plan! Who is Rusty? This clip introduces Apollo IX, Spider and Gumdrop and astronaut Rusty Schweickart to you."
Link: YouTube Video ("Who is Rusty? Ode to Rusty www.SpaceViz.com")
Link: YouTube Video ("Planetary Defense, A Space Viz Production www.SpaceViz.com")
Link: YouTube Video ("Apophis destruction sim")
Several Part YouTube Video on Class "Collision With an Asteroid? Averting a Planet-Wide Catastrophe"
Link: YouTube Video ("Asteroid Collision ONE")
Link: YouTube Video ("Asteroid 2004 XP14 July 3 Flyby")
5 Years to Develop Earth Asteroid Protection System by Anatoly Zaitsev [from Russia ITARTASS article]
"Earth Protection System To Be Based On Russian Technologies"
02 February 2007
"This view of Mars (visible towards the top of the image) and of the Milky Way was taken by the OSRIS camera on board the Rosetta orbiter on 3 December 2006, during the last series of instrument check-outs. In this image Mars is heavily overexposed and therefore surrounded by a halo of scattered light."
Article: "Rosetta images asteroid Lutetia" (26 January 2007)
Link: ESA Press Release
Link: Images from ROSETTA
"It [the book] wants nothing more than to scare you into accepting bigger, ever-more-powerful government. It is part of a stream of recent work from University of Chicago court intellectuals advocating bigger government and explicitly attacking those who warn against trading liberty for security."
"Indeed, not since The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has an author appeared to have so much fun wiping out humanity. Four catastrophes in particular get extensive attention: asteroid collisions, scientific accidents, global warming, and bioterrorism."
Link: Book Review
Link: Richard Posner's Homepage at the Univ. of Chicago
Link: Richard Posner's Wikipedia page
03 February 2007
Comet/Asteroid Impacts and Human Society: An Interdisciplinary Approach
Bobrowsky, Peter T.; Rickman, Hans (Eds.)
2007, XXVI, 546 p., 85 illus., Hardcover
"In 1908 an atmospheric explosion in northern Siberia released energy equivalent to 15 Mton of TNT. Can a comparable or larger NEO affect us again? When the next NEO strikes Earth will it be large enough to destroy a city? Will the climate change significantly? Can archaeology and anthropology provide insights into the expected cultural responses with NEO interactions? Does society have a true grasp of the actual risks involved? Is the Great Depression a good model for the economic collapse that could follow a NEO catastrophe? This volume provides a necessary link between various disciplines and comet/asteroid impacts."
"The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn't have a space program. And if we become extinct because we don't have a space program, it'll serve us right!"
- Larry Niven, quoted by Arthur Clarke in interview at space.com, 2001.
"I only hope that we shall not wait to adopt the [space] program until after our astronomers have reported a new and unsuspected aster[oid] moving across their fields of vision with menacing speed. At that point it will be too late!"
- Wernher von Braun, "A Plea for a Coordinated Space Program" in The Complete Book of Outer Space, 1953.
"Since, in the long run, every planetary civilization will be endangered by impacts from space, every surviving civilization is obliged to become spacefaring--not because of exploratory or romantic zeal, but for the most practical reason imaginable: staying alive... If our long-term survival is at stake, we have a basic responsibility to our species to venture to other worlds."
- Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994.
"Knowing what we know now, we are being irresponsible in our failure to make the scientific and technical progress we will need for protecting our newly discovered severely threatened and probably endangered species--us. NASA is not about the 'Adventure of Human Space Exploration,' we are in the deadly serious business of saving the species. All Human Exploration's bottom line is about preserving our species over the long haul."
- Astronaut John Young,"The Big Picture."
Link: "Space Quotes to Ponder"
"The agency's [NASA's] Constellation Program at Johnson Space Center launched a study last fall on flying the Orion crew exploration vehicle to a rendezvous with a near-Earth object (NEO) for study and possibly even sample return. A separate effort at Marshall Space Flight Center is studying whether it would be possible to cobble together pieces of the planned Ares I and Ares V launchers for an early lunar-return re-entry test with an unpiloted Orion. Also on the table, strictly as a possibility at this point, is using that so-called Ares IV to send humans to a NEO."