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.

22 January 2010

Findings and Recommendations from NRC Report

Findings and Recommendations from the recent NRC NEO Report...

Finding: Congress has mandated that NASA discover 90 percent of all near-Earth objects 140 meters in diameter or greater by 2020. The administration has not requested and Congress has not appropriated new funds to meet this objective. Only limited facilities are currently involved in this survey/discovery effort, funded by NASA’s existing budget.Finding: w directing NASA to discover 90 percent of all near-Earth objects 140 meters in diameter or greater by 2020.

Finding: The selected approach to completing the George E. Brown, Jr. Near-Earth Object Survey will depend on nonscientific factors: If completion of the survey as close to the original 2020 deadline as possible is considered most important, a space mission conducted in concert with observations using a suitable ground-based telescope is the best approach. This combination could complete the survey well before 2030, perhaps as early as 2022 if funding were appropriated quickly. A peerreviewed competition would be held to select this mission. If cost conservation is deemed most important, the use of a large ground-based telescope is the best approach. Under this option, the survey could not be completed by the original 2020 deadline, but could be completed before 2030. To achieve the intended costeffectiveness, the funding to construct the telescope must come largely on the basis of non-NEO programs.

Recommendation: Because recent studies of meteor airbursts have suggested that near-Earth objects as small as 30 to 50 meters in diameter could be highly destructive, surveys should attempt to detect as many 30- to 50-meter objects as possible. This search for smaller-diameter objects should not be allowed to interfere with the survey for objects 140-meters in diameter or greater.

Finding: The Arecibo and Goldstone radar systems play a unique role in the characterization of NEOs, providing unmatched accuracy in orbit determination, and insight into size, shape, surface structure, and other properties for objects within their latitude coverage and detection range.

Recommendation: Immediate action is required to ensure the continued operation of the Arecibo Observatory at a level sufficient to maintain and staff the radar facility. Additionally, NASA and NSF should support a vigorous program of radar observations of NEOs at Arecibo and NASA should support such a program at Goldstone for orbit determination and characterization of physical properties.

Recommendation: The United States should initiate a peer-reviewed, targeted research program in the area of impact hazard and mitigation of NEOs. Because this is a policy driven, applied program, it should not be in competition with basic scientific research programs or funded from them. This research program should encompass three principal task areas: surveys, characterization, and mitigation. The scope should include analysis, simulation, and laboratory experiments. This research program does not include mitigation space experiments or tests which are treated elsewhere in this report.

Recommendation: The United States should take the lead in organizing and empowering a suitable international entity to participate in developing a detailed plan for dealing with the NEO hazard.

Recommendation: Data from NEO airburst events observed by the U.S. Department of Defense satellites should be made available to the scientific community to allow it to improve understanding of the NEO hazards to Earth.

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