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.

01 August 2009

Article: "Call to reinstate asteroid search" [in Australia]

See Spaceguard: Australia Facebook page (contains open letter to the Australian government mentioned below):

From the article...

A GROUP of scientists and former NASA astronauts is urging the Rudd government to join the international search for comets or asteroids on a collision course with Earth.

The call comes on the heels of this month's 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and the government's $160.5 million commitment to space science and astronomy, announced in the May budget.

In an open letter sent yesterday to Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Science Minister Kim Carr and Defence Minister John Faulkner, the group says it's time to relaunch Spaceguard Australia, a program to survey the southern skies for potentially dangerous Near-Earth Objects like the Earthbound rock Bruce Willis destroys in the 1998 Hollywood blockbuster Armageddon.

Other signatories are David Howell, a Sydney-based international security consultant; Michael Paine, a consulting safety engineer and Australian co-ordinator for the Planetary Society in Pasadena, California; and Russell "Rusty" Schweickart, a former Apollo 9 astronaut and co-founder of the B612 Foundation, a private body dedicated to protecting Earth from NEOs.

According to the group, Australian participation in ongoing surveys -- led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena -- is critical.

No southern hemisphere telescopes are watching the sky. The result is a "blind spot" in coverage that could delay the identification of an NEO threat by four to 12 years, as northern and southern observations are needed to determine an object's orbit.

At present, seven NEO search programs are under way in the US, Japan and Germany.

Dr Chapman's group recommends that the commonwealth upgrade the Anglo-Australian Observatory to resurrect Australia's participation.

They also urge the government to take a leadership role, co-ordinating other southern hemisphere nations.

Until 1996 Australian astronomers participated in the global Spaceguard effort, using the Siding Spring Observatory in NSW, as well as a NASA-supported amateur instrument in Loomberah, NSW.

In 1996 the Howard government pulled funding, despite the fact that Australians had spotted roughly a third of all NEOs since the mid-1980s.

The move prompted an ultimately unsuccessful call in 2002 by more than 90 international researchers, urging then science minister Peter McGauran to reinstate funding.

"Call to reinstate asteroid search"
Leigh Dayton
The Australian
01 August 2009

Link: Article (the Australian)

Link: Spaceguard: Australia Facebook page with open letter

1 comment:

  1. It's high time that we started pulling our weight here in Australia on this issue.

    I am very pleased with this development, and have been quietly hoping that this issue would receive more attention in the local press.

    The fact that our current Chief Scientist, Prof. Penny Sackett, has a strong astronomical background gives me some hope that we can obtain sufficient political support to reinstate our contribution to this vital program.

    James Garth
    Melbourne, Australia


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