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.

10 November 2008

National Academies Study: "Review of Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies

Information on National Academies study entitled: "Review of Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies." They will be having a meeting from December 9-11, 2008 in Washington, D.C.

Here is more information on the project:

Project Scope

In response to long-standing interest in the hazards posed by Near-Earth Objects (NEOs), NASA was directed by Congress in 2005 to initiate a program to detect, track, catalogue, and characterize 90 percent of the objects in space larger than 140 meters in diameter, with a perihelion distance of less than 1.3 astronomical units. As the first step in the definition of this program, NASA was required to prepare and deliver to Congress a report containing an analysis of possible alternative approaches to conducting the requested survey, and an assessment of possible alternatives that could be employed to divert a NEO on a likely collision course with Earth. In response to these instructions, NASA undertook a series of activities culminating in the publication in March 2007 of Near-Earth Object Survey and Deflection Analysis of Alternatives: Report to Congress and 2006 Near-Earth Object Survey and Detection Study.

In response to these documents, Congress included language in the Joint Explanatory Statement attached to the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2008 calling on NASA to contract with the National Research Council to undertake a two-phase study to review those two NASA studies and other relevant literature, and to provide recommendations focusing on both the optimal approach to surveying the NEO population and the optimal approaches to developing a deflection capability.

Statement of Task
The National Research Council Space Studies Board, in cooperation with the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board, shall conduct a two-part study to address issues in the detection of potentially hazardous NEOs and approaches to mitigating identified hazards. Both tasks should include an assessment of the costs of various alternatives, using independent cost estimating. Options that blend the use of different facilities (ground- or space-based), or involve international cooperation, may be considered. Each study phase will result in a report to be delivered on the schedule provided in the contract. Key questions to be addressed during each phase of the study are the following:

Task 1: NEO Surveys
What is the optimal approach to completing the NEO census called for in the George E. Brown, Jr. Near-Earth Object Survey section of the 2005 NASA Authorization Act to detect, track, catalogue and characterize the physical characteristics of at least 90% of potentially hazardous NEOs larger than 140 meters in diameter by the end of year 2020? Specific issues to be considered include, but are not limited to, the following:
--What observational, data-reduction, and data-analysis resources are necessary to achieve the Congressional mandate of detecting, tracking, and cataloguing the NEO population of interest?
--What physical characteristics of individual objects above and beyond the determination of accurate orbits should be obtained during the survey to support mitigation efforts?
--What role could be played by the National Science Foundation's Arecibo Observatory in characterizing these objects?
--What are possible roles of other ground- and space-based facilities in addressing survey goals, e.g., potential contributions of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) and the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan STARRS)?

Task 2: NEO Hazard Mitigation
What is the optimal approach to developing a deflection capability, including options with a significant international component? Issues to be considered include, but are not limited to, the following:
--What mitigation strategy should be followed if a potentially hazardous NEO is identified?
--What are the relative merits and costs of various deflection scenarios that have been proposed?

This project is sponsored by NASA.
The start date for this project is November 4, 2008.

Schedule: An interim report, based upon Task 1, shall be produced and delivered to NASA by September 30, 2009. A final report including both Tasks 1 and 2 will be delivered by December 31, 2009.

Project Duration: 21 months

Link: National Academies Project Information

Link: Meeting Information (December 9, 2008 - December 11, 2008)

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