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.

09 May 2011

2011 IAA Planetary Defense Conference: Day 1 Session 1

Notes from Day 1 of 2011 IAA Planetary Defense Conference. Follow twitter feed for more information:

Day 1 (Monday 09 May 2011) Session 1

- Misc introductory remarks by various Romanian dignitaries, including political and scientific representatives

- IAA representative

IAA had Planetary Defense report by Ivan Bekey, keeps referring to asteroids as "rocks", hope to have one more conference in 2 years time

- Dr. Bill Ailor (Aerospace Corporation)

Reflects that this is the most prestigious conference venue for these series of conferences.

- Dr. Richard Tremayne Smith

Previous conferences have been focused on threat, introducing Dr. Anders Sandberg

- Dr. Anders Sandberg

Future of Humanity Institute, Faculty of Philosophy & Oxford Martin School
Oxford University

focuses on human enhancement, also interest in global risks
trying to understand how human species will survive
philosophers good at dealing with new questions and applicable to planetary defense/new global threats
genetic bottlenecks in humanity's history
75K years ago natural disaster reduced human species to around 1000 persons
Black Plague killed more people over time than than alive at start
emergent properties of the internet potential causing problems
past predictions of disasters have been been off by wide variety
problem with risk cognition
risk has an element of outrage in the public's perception
also overestimates probability of various risks
earth impactors relative to other risks are better than other risks
in principal, global coordination may not be required for planetary defense (better but not necessary)
thinking about threat by super-intelligent machines: no research community
use the planetary defense community as an example of how to deal with other threats
scientific search terms: "dung beetle" much more academic references than "human extinction"
weird priorities
reproducible cognitive biases distorting research
availability bias: if one can easily visualize threat than becomes more important
leads to good "story bias" - people expect proper solution will be as dramatic as how impactful story is, people want exciting methods
collective memory counteracts availability bias
"silliness" bias - 10-20 years there was much more of silliness category
"Gambler's" fallacy - if there is an impact than threat goes down
Quantification bias - numbers imply more importance just because of numerical values
If having a heart attack better if only one person than 20 people around, people waiting for others to act
having planetary defense have to act as doctors and break "bystander" effect
"Scope Neglect" willingness to pay goes down as problem becomes larger
"Maybe humanity does not deserve to survive" - as problem becomes larger people become more philosophical
Planetary Defense - under-supplied public good (transgenerational), some other government might do it, costs are visisble but prevention is invisible
Long timescale (paradox of progress, discounting, rational to wait perhaps as world gets more capable, if you believe in exponential increase in technology then perhaps would need to wait, but irrational delays may be an issue
Need a "good enough" solution perhaps
Public is getting globalized, need to get organizations against cognitive biases, planetary defense could be a useful symbol,
Inefficient to build more hospitals: symbol of hope
Planetary defense: collective activity (moral and rational), we care about future generations and that is why we are here

----- Session 1: History and Current Status

- Dave Morrison
"The Asteroid Impact Hazard: Historical Overview"
NASA Lunar Science Institute (NASA Ames)

Assessing the hazard does not mitigate but essential science
Mitigating the hazard - decision makers perspective changed over time, decision makers want to identify and survey objects, SpaceGaurd and others is directed a this point - not a scientific survey per se
Responding to public concern: focusing previously on large global risks but should be worrying about next small one, public and decision makers are pushing into this perspective, directs towards last minute survey for such small impactors

Long term history was protecting earth against comets, because comets thought to be bigger and less information about asteroids, Comets only 1% of risk, look at mitigation first at US and then UK task force in 2000

1949: Raplh Baldwin in 1969 (The Face of the Moon)
1967: Project Icarus (MIT study)
1980: Alvarez KT Mass Extinction

1991: US Congress statement (assess hazard and look at technologies)
1992 workshops including NEO interception workshop (Ed Teller looking at nuclear options)

get multi-kiloton explosion in upper atmosphere

Developing a community to find people interested over the 1990s in planetary defense community and bridge gap of astronomers and DoE community working on mitigation, key meeting in 1993 in Erice, Sicily (40 invitees) to talk to each other and get common interest
1993 meeting that resulted in 1994 book (Hazards Due to Comets and Asteroids)
Spaceguard Survey (1998-present);
any survey will find many more objects smaller than its target population (finds whatever is there)
LINEAR and Catalina have accounted for majority of discoveries
Subtleties from orbits, follow-up of systems needed, difficult time with 1997 XF11 (had error as large as miss distance), made a press release, press coverage, but follow up analysis showed no major impact, compromise with overcome giggle factor and not issuing false alarms, keyholes was an important concept
Developed the Torino and Palermo scale, NEO Eros mission, 2002 Belton mitigation missions
NASA 2003 NASA Science Def. Team

Issues in planetary defense:
Should we develop technology now or wait or should be wait until threat
Should be an international effort
Are nuclear options acceptable, difficult to test
How much should be spend
Who can be trusted with this responsibility
How can we ensure that asteroid defense systems are not misused

Hazard before and after SpaceGuard that hazards are still large objects, sig. risk from objects 200-300 m in diameters.

- Lindley Johnson
Program Executive, NASA NEO Program Status and Plans
coining "Planetary Defense"
counted about 12 different presentations at conference that relate to NASA's NEO program, directly funded by NASA
Since 2009 planetary defense conference
Jan. 2010: US NRC had report
April 2010: New NASA human space flight, human NEO mission by 2025
June 2010: US National Space Policy addressed NEO threat
Apr.-Sept. 2010: NASA Ad. Council Planetary Defense Task Force
Oct. 2010: US OSTP Letter to Congress
FY11/12 NASA Budget Requests: NEEO Program increase to $20.4 M

NASA NEO Search program
LINEAR still operational, Catalina Sky Survey, Pan-STARRS-1, and over the last year NASA WISE
8-10 per month finding large NEOs in heyday, now finding about 1 per month (Large NEOs)
as of 5/1/11 discovered 87-97% of large NEOs, have founded 914 Large NEOs (included 89 Near Earth Comets), 7117 smaller objects found (NEO), about 1000 1 km objects, about 20K at 140 m, about 250K at 50 m

NRC report: cannot meet goal to discover 90% of NEOs 140m or greater by 2020 (cost or performance focused, different options), continue planetary radars, test of kinetic impactor

NEO working group established by UN COPUOS (annual meeting)
Space Situational Awareness Working Group with EU and ESA.

NASA NEO Observaiton Program
90% of objects within 1.3 AU of sun and 140 m in size or larger
Viable targets for future exploration will be found
Continue to fund existing assets and then bring on existing assets

NASA's NEO program $16M increase will:
Extend WISE data
Enable NEO use from USAF Pan-STARRS project
Planetary radar (Arecibo, Goldstone)
Investigate use of ground and space concepts for tracking and characterizing PHOs down to 140m and below
Investigate characterization parameters of NEOs for mitigation studies

Next Gen Survey (still preliminary):
Pan-STARRS from 2 to 4, LSST, SST (DARPA funded telescope at White Sands, 3.6 m primary mirror, ready next Feb., use background images for NEOs), Space-Based Survey Telescope
Space-bases NEOStar concept (as infrared space-based observatory)
Funding for Arecibo through 2011 by NASA until NSF decides how to proceed

2005 YU55 (400 m NEO): good opportunity to do characterization campaign, passes well above the plane of EM system

- Gerhard Drolshagen by ESA (given by Detlef Koshny)
ESA's Space Situational Awareness

Marco Polo-R (asteroid sample return study, 1 out of 4 studies, 2020 launch: Detlef study scientist)

European SSA programme
Surveillance and tracking, space weather, and NEOs
currently in preparatory phase (2009-2011/12) approved (50M Euros for all three programs combined during 2009-2012)
Nominal phase (slices of 4 years over 7 years), preparing for full program to be approved at the end of 2012
EC got interested in topic (younger Alan Harris won proposal)
SSA program: network of sensors, data centers, common data policy, NEO: ESRIN/Italy (NEO data center), in SRR program for ESA-SSA
in the process of setting up a precursor service: based on existing assets (preparation for real program) - bottom up approach
NEOs portion of SSA out of 50M Euros (too complex to state what portion of 50M Euros is NEO-related)
Study by Telespazio/Pisa/INAF Rome produced functional breakdown of future European NEO segment and produced a simulator for testing NEODyd

Basic concept of SSA-NEO Segement (setting up more telescopes, data center, and communication flows to MPC and JPL and other users), existing services get more money

What is SSA-NEO up to?
Contracts for computers, web interaces, governance, telescope analysis/design (finished in 2010: design for optical telescope with 1m effective aperture, 45 square deg FOV, "Fly-Eye Telescope")
Working hard to keep NEO-SSA public (separating telescopes for other SSA needs and NEOs)
regular observations at ESA's Optical Ground Station
Precursor service in ESRIN stated in 01 MArch 2011, operations in Summer 2011
Starting impact effects and deflection strategies, will star this year, producing a snap-shot of knowledge
Study for different orbit propagation algorithms, develop and build a visible-IR camera
building a demo system for space debris and NEO (2 telescopes, one in New Norica and another in AUS)
Update NEO population model (still needs approval)

Set up a precursor service involving key players in Europe
Federate existing assets
After 2013 (full program):
build up a wide survey to detect all objects larger than Tunguska-size objects 3 weeks before their close approach (several 1m 45 deg FOV telescopes)
Set up international program

Q. by Dave Morrison: concerned about specificity on ESA-SSA, what is new?
A: nothing new, but continue what is there but with proper funding (have a few hundred K Euro for proposal), new thing is wide survey that will complement deep survey

Q. by Rusty: relationship between data center and MPC, do you see duplication? Started already to look into possibilities in supporting MPC, do not have funding in current budget, too early to say in the future what happens (goal is not duplicate MPC, goal could be redundancy or additional tasks, do not plan Euro MPC)

- Richard Tremayne Smith
UN COPUOS Action Team Activities

Rationale for UN Involvement
UNISPACE III developed "Action Team" concept to work more directly on issues, UN Action Team 14 on NEOs established and elevated to WG status in 2007 within COPUOS S&T, approved work plan until at least 2012

Past models: IADC (Inter0agency Debris Comm.) - certain parties tried to get that body into looking into NEOs (but not successful), UN developed own space debris guidelines, used ASE panel in similar manner to accelerate process of NEO measures

ASE recommendations: Document no evolving within the UN system with ownership of delegations (through AT 14 report at UN COPUOS)

CRP reflects three elements of ASE Report (IAWN, MPOG - IADC analogue, MAOG - role for UN body)
Who has role for MAOG: UN OOSA, ISDR, WMO (7x24 network, for $1M extra could do NEO work) potentially, UN Sec. Council, Another UN body?, non UN bodies?

- Alan Harris (The European)
"A Global Approach to NEO Impact Threat Mitigation"

An EC funded program on NEOs,
Another organization that is planning to make money available, this is the EU through its EC and its FP7 research program, given initially a poster slot, look as this will be funded, more significant, NEOShield Proposal - submitted in response to FP7 research proposals (26 Nob. 2010, 13 members), topped one of 6 proposals, 5.5 M Euro (Funds provided by EU: 4.0 M Euro), anticipated kick-off of Nov./Dec. 2011 (duration 3.5 years), will investigation: gravity tractor, kinetic impactors, and blast deflection

1. Science: including lab experiments, mitigation precursor recon, using asteroid surface analog materials, numerical simulations,
2. Mitigation Demo Mission: identify suitable mission targets, design a missions
3. Global response campaign roadmap

international team including Astrium, Deimos Space, Surrey, D. Morrison
Univ. of Surrey will work with D. Morrison on gravity tractors
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