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Space Science

NASA Can't Pay for Killer Asteroid Hunt 398

Posted by Hemos
from the anyone-raid-the-coffee-fund-money dept.
CGISecurity.com writes "NASA officials say the space agency is capable of finding nearly all the asteroids that might pose a devastating hit to Earth, but there isn't enough money to pay for the task so it won't get done. 'We know what to do, we just don't have the money,' said Simon 'Pete' Worden, director of NASA's Ames Research Center." But hey, it's just the potential end of the world, so nothing much to worry about there.
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NASA Can't Pay for Killer Asteroid Hunt

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  • Does it really matter? If there is a life on earth ending event occurring from some asteroid they COULD find, does it matter at all? There is nothing we can do about it anyway. So tell me, what is the big deal.
    • by Zeek40 (1017978) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @11:14AM (#18250470)
      I'd certainly like to know. I've got a decent chunk of change sitting in my retirement accounts that i could throw one hell of a world-ending party with.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        So instead of doing something valuable like finding killer asteroids [wikipedia.org] that actually exist and have hit the world in the last 100 years, we send a mission to Mars, send up commercial satellites on government paid for shuttles?

        Use the money for something useful instead of finding out the effects of sending rats into space. [cnn.com]
        • by hiroller (994761) <dvan_cuyk.hotmail@com> on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @11:31AM (#18250712)
          Well a mission to the Moon and Mars, bent on colonizing planets outside of our native planet, would be extremely beneficial and would pay off tremendously if Earth was ever faced with a crisis that we could not prevent. It would at least save our species from extinction!
          • by Rei (128717) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @02:31PM (#18253572) Homepage
            Do you have any clue how horribly difficult a truly independent colony will be to establish? I'll demonstrate. Let's just pick one task that will be essential -- just one. Say, mining. Now, let's pick just one aspect of mining -- say, a loader. Let's just pick one thing that that loader will consume over time (ignoring what it takes to make more of them or replacement parts) -- say, lubricant. What do we need for this?

            Well, there are three kinds of lubricants that would be reasonable for different tasks on Mars: petroleum, plant, and silicone. Plant, probably the easiest, wouldn't work for this task. Even processed plant oils, like soybean polyol esters, are not suited for high loading tasks. Plant-derived lubricants are only for mild conditions. They're also much more prone to degradation. Really wouldn't work. So, that leaves petroleum and silicone. Petroleum, you'd need long chain fuel oils -- saturated and unsatured hydrocarbons, linear and/or cyclic. Your base could also be phosphate esters, although they'd be low viscosity. Diesters might be good, as could short chain polyglycols. Silicone oils can be good by themselves or as additives. So, we have a few options for bases. But is that good enough? Not really, unless you want to wear through parts and oil like there's no tomorrow. What additives do we need? Anti-foaming agents (silicone is good for this). EP additives allow the lubricant to work in higher stress conditions (like mining), so that's things like sulfur, phosphorus, and chlorine compounds. You're still going to be getting particles in solution, though -- how to keep them there to prevent them from abrading the surfaces? Detergents: sulfates, phosphonates, thiophosphonates, phenates, or salicylates of barium, calcium, or magnesium. And/or dispersants. And heck, if this lubricant is to be used where there's combustion, you may need emulsifiers as well to allow it to mix with some water.

            Now, let's chain back just one of those chemicals -- let's say a fuel oil. What do we need to produce a fuel oil on Mars? We need to use something like the Fischer-Tropsh process or Sabatier synthesis to turn CO2 + H2 into hydrocarbons. H2 comes from energy-intensive cracking of water. CO2 will have to be frozen out of the uberthin atmosphere in a huge facility. Of course, we'll get mostly methane from our hydrocarbon synthesis. Let's just assume that this tech advances enough that appropriate catalyst packs can be gotten to selectively make heavier hydrocarbons. You'll still need a whole distilling facility to process the hydrocarbons (picture a small oil refinery) to seperate. All of this power? Well, if it comes from nuclear, you better have a way to make nuclear fuel (and you don't even want to see the dependency chain on that one). Solar? Solar panels have an even bigger dependency chain. Solar thermal? Ignoring initial launch costs for that much mass, even if you can make the mirrors locally, you still need to make the heliostats. Once again, depenency chains. See where this is going?

            Note how much I had to narrow the subject down just to get into this one set of resource dependencies. The simple fact is that modern technology spawns *huge* dependency chains, and on another planet, you simply can't live/expand a colony without modern technology. You can make some simplifying assumptions -- say, substitute HDPE for LDPE in a plastics task. But you couldn't generally, say, substitute HDPE for neoprene, teflon, polycarbonate, or nylon. Even simplified dependency trees will still be monstrous.

            This assumes that everything we need *can* be found on Mars. What if it can't? What if we can't find, say, fluorspar? No aluminium industry (not only will that hurt construction and refining, but also would be a double-whammy for rocketry; you'd have to use titanium alloys (more expensive) for structural integiry and would have much weaker solid rocket engines). No hydrofluoric acid (needed by many industrial processes -- including the most realistic uran
            • by nasch (598556) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @03:16PM (#18254168)
              You're right, that sounds *really* hard. So.... we shouldn't try?
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by edwardpickman (965122)
              Now, let's pick just one aspect of mining

              Don't you just need a pick and shovel and a mule to mine with? Okay it's going to be hard to stick a space helmet on one but it's got to be cheaper than all the fancy hardware.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by GodInHell (258915) *

              Well, there are three kinds of lubricants that would be reasonable for different tasks on Mars: petroleum, plant, and silicone

              ..and water ..and super smooth surfaces.. and magnetic bearings... and whatever solution NASA will develope to use in the place of your options. Before the first moon mission, "plastics" would not be on any ley-man's list of materials options, "computers" were mainly people with a calculator, and "rockets" were things you fired blindly at the enemy with minimal steerage.

              Here's a question.. if we don't start developing the technologies we need for long-distance space travel.. what will you do when NASA ids

        • by kalirion (728907) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @01:36PM (#18252802)
          So instead of doing something valuable like finding killer asteroids that actually exist and have hit the world in the last 100 years, we send a mission to Mars, send up commercial satellites on government paid for shuttles?

          I don't think any asteroids that have hit the world in the last 100 years are likely to hit it again any time soon....
      • by jcorno (889560) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @11:30AM (#18250690)
        I've got a decent chunk of change sitting in my retirement accounts that i could throw one hell of a world-ending party with.

        Yeah, but why would they give it to you? As soon as we know it's coming, every bank on the planet is gonna throw hundred million dollar embezzlement parties.
      • by ProppaT (557551) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @12:06PM (#18251226) Homepage
        Sorry to break the news to you, but the second the "world ending" asteroid is announced, all your money becomes null and void. At that point, you'd better hope you have a buddy who owns or works at a liquor store, cause it's going to be chaos. Heck, I know if I knew the world was going to end in a year, I'd just go home from work right now. I'd probably start biking to places I haven't been and find ways to eat off the land. I hate to say it, but there's not going to be much of a demand for technical writers if the products I'm writing manuals for would never even see the light of day.
    • by Kadin2048 (468275) <[slashdot.kadin] [at] [xoxy.net]> on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @11:15AM (#18250492) Homepage Journal
      There is nothing we can do about it anyway.

      Seems like a questionable assumption to me. There's quite a bit we could possibly do about it, if we knew long enough in advance. It's only if we only knew about it a few weeks or months in advance, that it would probably be a bend-over-and-pucker-up moment.

      There is a whole lot of ingenuity (and a whole lot of explosives) spread across the globe as a whole; assuming that people got together and decided that the continued survival of the human species is a Good Idea, I suspect we could probably figure out a way to annihilate or deflect a rock, given enough lead time.
    • What do you mean "nothing we can do"? I'm certain we can find a rowdy-yet-lovable bunch of oil drillers to send up there on a suicidal mission to blow up the asteroids from the inside with some nuclear weapons, all set to an Aerosmith soundtrack. What's so hard about that?
    • Depending on what asteroid we are talking about it would be a relatively long time frame between hitting the earth. There is one asteroid that we are tracking that if it basically passes through the certain area we know it's going to hit earth but there will be plenty of time to prepare. It had some ironic name involving some god of death. I really wish I knew the name. According to wikipedia one might hit 800 years from now.
    • I'd Rather Know (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Greyfox (87712) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @11:22AM (#18250582) Homepage Journal
      That way I could greet the end of the world heavily in debt and with an empty wine cellar. No sense in saving up for retirement if a killer asteroid is just going to destroy the world a week after you quit your job and move to the Caribbean.
    • If you're assuming that any threat they find will destroy us within a year or two, then yes there's not a great deal we can do about it - Bruce Willis is always busy and Robert Duvall isn't getting any younger.

      But in all likelihood any threat they find won't be destroying us within the next couple of years, it'll be something that will hit in 10 or 20 or 100 years. On those timeframes there are many things we can do, even if at this specific moment it could only be summed up as "let's give a load of smart g
    • As it turns out, there are ways to hit that asteroid out of the way, assuming we see it in time. If we don't know it's coming, there won't be crap we can do, because it will be "too close" by that time. One proposed way to hit them out of the way is with interstellar billiards, where you hit a smaller one into a bigger one into the threatening one, and even a slight nudge when it's far off will do the trick.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Fozzyuw (950608)

      here is nothing we can do about it anyway.

      Sure we can. I saw a documentary not long ago that showed how we could fly onto the comment and drill a nuclear weapon into the core and explode it. All we need is to make sure Ben Afflack's schedule is empty.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Ngarrang (1023425)
      Personally, I would not want the world to know that The Killer was on its way to hitting us. Can you imagine the mass hysteria and panic such information would cause? Lawlessness and chaos would reign. People wouldn't care to do their jobs anymore. And worse, Slashdot might go offline!

      I fully intend to be reading and sending e-mail up to the last day of my existence, thank you very much. And, doubtless, someone will find a way to blame Micro$oft or SCO, causing a flood of responses for me to have to re
    • by pilgrim23 (716938)
      NASA has shown several times they can afford to send money controlling Senators and other congress critters into space. Seems a perfect example of Newtonian physics; toss hot air bodies at asteroids until they slow down to a crawl like all governemnt service.
  • About $1 Billion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @11:13AM (#18250452) Journal
    I'm a United States citizen.

    I have paid ~$50-60 for a few smoke detector and pay maybe a dollar or two a year to maintain the batteries in them.

    I make an average amount of income so $50 is nothing when a fire could take my life. I've seen other people's houses destroyed by fires but never mine. I don't know if we see other planets regularly destroyed by asteroids or impacts but if you can make a case for it, then this analogy may be apt.

    I also know that walking down the street in Prince George's County might result in your death. So do I hire a body guard to protect me? No. Why? Because I don't have the money for that. If I were a billionaire, I would definitely look into it and probably hire a driver too. I see people robbed and killed on TV so, again, if you can point to examples where planets have been destroyed, this analogy is apt.

    Considering the war in Iraq has cost me, the taxpayer, $300 billion and I'm not sure that that is increasing my safety ... what's another billion? I mean, it's obvious NASA's not asking us to spend a significant amount of our income on "Asteroid Insurance."

    In my opinion, all NASA needs to do is present congress with a scientific statistic claim with percent confidence of global destruction. If we have craters on our planet & there are bones of things that shouldn't have died lying all around, I'm guessing they could place something like a 1% chance of a decent sized asteroid hitting us within a couple thousand years. Given that information, $1 billion may not seem like a bad idea considering most of us employ smoke detectors with even less risk of harm/loss to us.
    • by Intron (870560)
      "I don't know if we see other planets regularly destroyed by asteroids or impacts"

      We saw Shoemaker-Levy
    • by Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @11:19AM (#18250556) Homepage Journal
      See, hunting for killer asteroids requires money, that money can serve Congress better by buying votes through some "aid" program. NASA will continue to get the short end of the stick because we as American citizens keep putting back the same aristocracy that is allowing the US to fall behind the world in science.

      NASA doesn't need to justify it, we the people need to justify ourselves by putting people more concerned about advancing this nation instead of advancing their own status.

      That $300 billion tab in Iraq is meaningless in this conversation as NASA's budget would still be what it is. The money would have just vanished down some vote buying program that forever indebts us.
    • by Kadin2048 (468275) <[slashdot.kadin] [at] [xoxy.net]> on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @11:23AM (#18250600) Homepage Journal
      In my opinion, all NASA needs to do is present congress with a scientific statistic claim with percent confidence of global destruction. If we have craters on our planet & there are bones of things that shouldn't have died lying all around, I'm guessing they could place something like a 1% chance of a decent sized asteroid hitting us within a couple thousand years. Given that information, $1 billion may not seem like a bad idea considering most of us employ smoke detectors with even less risk of harm/loss to us.

      This sounds like an entirely rational, sensible argument. As a result, I predict that it will have absolutely zero effect on anyone in Congress.

      As an alternative, I suggest you come up with some "evidence" suggesting that an asteroid impact would transform their children into mutants, preferably homosexual ones; or, that the asteroids are a Arab Terrorist Plot. Double points if the asteroid is Mexican.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      "Considering the war in Iraq has cost me, the taxpayer, $300 billion and I'm not sure that that is increasing my safety ... what's another billion?" Do you really think that if the US were not in Iraq NASA would all of the sudden have all the cash they need to run all the missions they could? Gimme a break. The Iraq adventure has cost far more than $300 billion and if we were not there that money would not have gone to NASA. That money would have gone to more government cheese for the poor or some ot
    • by Billosaur (927319) *

      In my opinion, all NASA needs to do is present congress with a scientific statistic claim with percent confidence of global destruction. If we have craters on our planet & there are bones of things that shouldn't have died lying all around, I'm guessing they could place something like a 1% chance of a decent sized asteroid hitting us within a couple thousand years. Given that information, $1 billion may not seem like a bad idea considering most of us employ smoke detectors with even less risk of harm/loss to us.

      Normally I might agree, but we're talking the general populace here. You can show Congressmen and their constituents all the holes in the ground and Shoemaker-Levy photos you like, but we live in a world of "that's not my problem" and "can't happen to me" and "it's not going to happen tomorrow". Unless a sizable chunk of something streaks across the heavens, lights up the night's sky, and obliterates an area where there are a few hundred thousand people with cell-phone cameras and video cameras and a CNN

      • Unless a sizable chunk of something streaks across the heavens, lights up the night's sky, and obliterates an area where there are a few hundred thousand people with cell-phone cameras and video cameras and a CNN satellite truck nearby, no one is really going to care.

        Why don't they just show them pictures and proof of the Tunguska Event [wikipedia.org] and play the emotional card a la Fox News? "Find out what is already going to kill your children!"

        It may have happened in the middle of nowhere many years ago but if

    • by penguinbrat (711309) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @11:40AM (#18250804)
      Quota from Armageddon - "No offense General, but it's a big ass sky..."
    • "If we have craters on our planet & there are bones of things that shouldn't have died lying all around,"

      What if the people paying the bills don't believe in the bones of things laying around?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Red Flayer (890720)

      If we have craters on our planet & there are bones of things that shouldn't have died lying all around, I'm guessing they could place something like a 1% chance of a decent sized asteroid hitting us within a couple thousand years.

      B-b-b-but those craters and bones were placed there in order to test our faith!

      If an asteroid is going to hit the earth, obviously that is part of the end times, and the Rapture is nigh. Who are we to disrupt God's plan?

      I jest. But the scary thing is that there are plenty

    • Re:About $1 Billion (Score:4, Interesting)

      by gurps_npc (621217) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @11:48AM (#18250932) Homepage
      We have seen Jupiter hit by a killer comet. While not 'destroyed', the damage created a violent weather system that lasted for YEARS over an area many times larger than the planet earth. In addition, we have record that our own planet has undergone massive extinctions that we believe was likely caused by asteroids or commets. So I would say that we have in fact seen a planet sufficiently damaged and have records of others, so the case is made.

      The real problem is that what NASA wants to do is pay $1 billion to FIND the asteroid, not to deal with the problem. Preventing it may not be possible, and if it is possible, could cost a lot more than the mere $1 billion.

      So, the question is, is it worth x cash to get a smoke detector if the house is locked up tight and we can't get out of it. Or is it better for us to not know, as we can't do anything about it, and just continue on with our lives without worldwide panic.

    • by truckaxle (883149)

      Considering the war in Iraq has cost me, the taxpayer, $300 billion


      Yes but don't forget the rallying sound bite "They hate our freedoms"
    • by liliafan (454080) *
      Statistically you have a better chance of being killed by an asteroid than by dying in a plane crash.

      It is worked out on the basis that lets say 200 people a year die in a plane crash over a 5,000 year period that is just 1 million deaths.

      If we got hit by a world killer or even a regional killer asteroid in the next 5,000 years the number of deaths would be a hell of a lot higher for a regional killer you are looking at millions of deaths for a global killer billions of deaths.

      This proves two things firstly
  • Seems to me that a thorough survey of NEOs (Near Earth Objects) should be part of NASA's charter.

    Might be time to hassle my congresspeople again.
    • The Bush Administration announced a while back that NASA's priorities should be to get us back to the moon and come up with a way to get humans to Mars, and NASA's been complaining that it's interfering significantly with the budget for earth science projects - satellites and such. They only get so much money, and if they've got to put it into planning for human missions to places that should really be handled by robots at this point, then they don't have enough to do most of the other work.
      • ...and if they've got to put it into planning for human missions to places that should really be handled by robots...


        Eventually we are going to become extinct if not by an asteroid, then by the sun expanding into a red giant and gobbling up the Earth. The only way to eliminate extinction is to get our collective asses off this rock, into space and on as many planetoid surfaces as possible. That way at least a small part of humanity will survive.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Cedric Tsui (890887)
      Nasa does keep a thorough survey of NEOs
      http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/ca/ [nasa.gov]

      They (try to) keep track of any asteroids 100m in diameter or greater that can come within 0.05 AU of earth.
  • by AltGrendel (175092) <ag-slashdot @ e x i t0.us> on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @11:13AM (#18250460) Homepage
    And I feel fine.

    Seriously, the British seem to be really obsessed with this, couldn't they kick in a couple of quid? How about the Russians, or the Chinese, or...

  • by davidwr (791652) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @11:16AM (#18250496) Homepage Journal
    If the thing is small enough to destroy, money will be found. Yeah, we may have to tell Iraq "sorry" and stop all Social Security payments but we'll find a way.

    If the thing is too big or too close and it's curtains for life as we know it, well, "eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die."
    • The problem isn't the money to destroy it or alter it's course... the problem is the money to find it.

      If we don't know about it until it hits us (the likeliest current situation) then not only do we not get to try and destroy it, but we don't even get to party like it's 1999.
  • NASA vs. UNASA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bronzey214 (997574) <jason.rippel@NoSpAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @11:17AM (#18250508) Journal
    Actually, NASA is already tracking objects >3,300 feet in diameter, but this would be to track all objects capable of doing "massive damage" to Earth.

    My question is - why is it the job of the US to protect the world?

    Wouldn't this be a UN issue?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Eunuchswear (210685)
      Oh yeah, like someone is going to give the UN the means to "protect the world".

      The UN is powerless 'cos that's how the US (and others) want it to be.

      • by amper (33785) *
        If you believe that, then you clearly don't understand anything about international politics.

        The UN is relatively powerless because that is the nature of international relationships. Each member nation of the United Nations is a sovereign entity, and agreements between such entities can only be reached through cooperation. This is the very reason why each permanent member of the UN Security Council holds veto power. If a sovereign nation disagrees with the rest of the world, it is still within its rights to
    • Re:NASA vs. UNASA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Applekid (993327) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @11:31AM (#18250720)
      Because, all cynicism aside, at the end of the day it's the US's job to protect the US. And a global catastrophie would definitely run counter to that credo. No other space agency is stepping up to the plate. Some people are going to get a free ride, but that's the way it is when you lead.

      Not to say that United States of America is a leader, but a leader would definitely take on the challenge, or at least a nation that wants to bill itself as a "world leader".
    • by oliderid (710055)
      Ok here is the deal. You will be the only industrialized country to respect the Kyoto treaty and the rest of the world takes care of this Asteroid hunt.
      Ok? :-)

  • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @11:21AM (#18250580) Homepage Journal
    The explosion alone could have with the power of 100 million tons of dynamite, enough to devastate an entire state, such as Maryland, they said.

    Maryland [netstate.com]? Here in Texas, we call that a "county". Call me when you have something that can devastate a real state.
  • I think we also need NASA to monitor the Sun for any signs of impending supernova.

    A supernova would destroy the Earth and clearly kill all of us. Therefore we should spend whatever it takes to monitor the Sun.

    Oh, and I suppose we need NASA to keep a death-clock for the heat-death of the Universe too.

    And perhaps satellites to monitor the humongous black holes in the center of galaxies to make sure we aren't drifting towards any of them.

    Oh, and we shouldn't eat charcoaled food either. Don't forget the blacken
    • I think we also need NASA to monitor the Sun for any signs of impending supernova.

      A supernova would destroy the Earth and clearly kill all of us. Therefore we should spend whatever it takes to monitor the Sun.

      The sun cannot supernova. And BTW, we are monitoring the sun. All the time. It's not just a nova that poses a danger. How about solar storms? I would sure like to know if the Sun is about to spew electromagnetic radiation all over
      us, especially if it was a very powerful storm capable of knocking o

  • news flash (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kohath (38547) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @11:22AM (#18250592)
    News flash: Government agency asks for more funding

  • by andreamer (937648) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @11:22AM (#18250594)
    I like the part where they say... "enough to devastate an entire state, such as Maryland"

    "Oh, not that we'd WANT anything to happen to Maryland, Congress. No. But, you know, sometimes things go wrong. Especially when NASA doesn't get funding. It makes NASA so disappointed when it doesn't get funding, and when you're disappointed, you sometimes don't look so hard for killer asteroids. You know how it is."
  • by chill (34294)
    Someone at NASA is learning how to play the game with Congress.

    They can barely get funding for exploration, with the myopic bureaucrats babbling on about how things like going back to the moon or a manned mission to Mars are a waste of money.

    Head on back to your constituents and explain why you won't pony up a measly $1 billion for this project. We'll bring out some nice PowerPoint slides showing Barney the Dinosaur narrating what happened the last time a major asteroid hit the planet. Maybe add some clip
  • $1 (Score:4, Informative)

    by mastershake_phd (1050150) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @11:23AM (#18250614) Homepage
    A cheaper option would be to simply piggyback on other agencies' telescopes, a cost of about $300 million, also rejected

    Thats $1 per American. There shouldnt even be a debate.
    • by stubear (130454)
      "But hey, it's just the potential end of the world, so nothing much to worry about there."

      Last I checked, the U.S. isn't the entire world. Perhaps Europe, Russia and China could kick in a bit to save the planet too. If the rest of the world is going to continue to utilize the resources of the U.S. tax payer they perhaps the rest of the world had best be prepared to accept U.S. sovereignty.
    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by clintp (5169)

      A cheaper option would be to simply piggyback on other agencies' telescopes, a cost of about $300 million, also rejected.

      Thats $1 per American. There shouldnt even be a debate.

      That's about $.05 per person on the planet. Lemme know when you manage to collect India and China's fair share, and I'll rummage through my couch for my family's.
  • It'll be like the movies, we won't know a killer asteroid is coming until it is right on top of us. Why? Because our political leaders can't think past the next election. There's no way they'll fund anything to find threats that may not be an issue for thousands of years, thousands of years past the end of their terms. I only hope human technology will be up to the task of defending the Earth from these threats on short notice.
  • What a shame! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Pedrito (94783) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @11:27AM (#18250652) Homepage
    It was just a few years ago that a fairly sizable asteroid passed between the Earth and the Moon and we didn't even notice it until it passed by because it came from the direction of the sun. We need at least several years notice on these things if we want to avoid a direct hit at some point. There's no argument to be made against paying for the survey. We know big rocks hit the Earth. It's happened plenty of times in the past. It will eventually happen again. And it's one of those things that doesn't really cost that much compared to the GDP.

    That said, it's to the benefit of the entire planet and the entire planet should pitch in to help pay for it. Someone said, "So what? There's nothing we can do about it." Actually, given a few years notice, there's a lot we can do about it. An asteroid 5-10 years from hitting doesn't need much of a push to get it completely out of our way. It's when it's only a few months away that we're just completely screwed. But if there were an imminent threat of collision a few years out, I guarantee you, we'd figure out a way to move it. The world would definitely come up with the resources to figure out a solution.
  • ..that the only feasible organization that has the ability to spot and prevent such disasters is based in the US. Maybe it's time NASA started looking for serious, private funding? Imagine how much they could do if the government contracted NASA with billions of dollars instead of spending all the tax dollars on new tanks..

    Reality is, unfortunately, that war is expensive, especially when the current president thinks that money is just a bunch of numbers he gives to other people for things that go "boom".
  • by Anon-Admin (443764) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @11:32AM (#18250730) Homepage Journal
    All they really need to do is develop an automated identification software and telescope computer interface. Then sell them for about $200 each. It would only take a 12" scope to ID 99% of the objects!

    Then set up a registry and offer the Discovery announcement, naming rights, and mineral rights to anyone that ID's them.

    Hell, I would spend all night ID'ing them for the mineral rights alone :)
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Cedric Tsui (890887)
      Such a system exists. It works on the simple principle that asteroids move while stars do not. I believe they use wide field of view lenses. I know they cost much more than $200.

      Existing systems include (Wikipedia)
      * The Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) team
      * The Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking (NEAT) team
      * Spacewatch
      * The Lowell Observatory Near-Earth-Object Search (LONEOS) team
  • by s31523 (926314) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @11:36AM (#18250768)
    NASA is tracking an asteroid [cnn.com], that could hit the earth in 2036. OF course by "could" NASA means 1:45,000. Still, why is the US the only country tasked with worrying about this. Hopefully the members of the UN wake up and smell the asteroid!
  • by rbanzai (596355) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @11:41AM (#18250816)
    The number of people in this thread saying "Oh well, there's nothing we can do about it anyway" is just bizarre. It's one thing to think the threat is not worth the money, it's another to think there's no point in even trying to defend against it. Weird.
  • we all fail this: we underestimate threats until they hit us, then we overreact

    look at 9/11 for example, or the 2004 tsunami

    the problem is, it's emotional. the emotions are hooked up to some other issue before the catalclysm hits us, then when it hits us, it becomes very emotional, and we start doing all sorts of crazy stuff, including stuff we don't have to do/ shouldn't do for our own good

    and don't poopoo this fact about "other" people: you do the same thing, don't lie to yourself. like you can't find an example of what i just described above somewhere in your personal life history. it's essential human nature, and that includes your behavior, human

    the lesson?

    we better be hit with a big asteroid that takes out a country or a continent before we get hit with the one that takes out the planet

    only in the former case will humanity's response be effective at saving itself

    but if we get hit with the planet-killer first? we're flat out doomed. we won't be prepared. simple human nature dictates this fact

    so the history of humanity is wrapped up in this coin flip: planet-killer or country killer. combine this random chance with essential human natue, and whichever hits us first determines whether or not humanity surivives
  • It's just cheaper to wait a few billion years for roaches to evolve sentience in the unlikely event of a near-term collision. We'll kill ourselves off sooner than that, so no sense in worrying about asteroids unless one's coming in <100 years or so.
  • by RyoShin (610051) <tukaro@gPLANCKmail.com minus physicist> on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @11:49AM (#18250960) Homepage Journal
    Someone just tell Bush/Congress that the terrorists have achieved a presence in orbit (thanks to Iran!), and we need to be able to keep an eye on the entire atmosphere and beyond to be able to defend against this new threat. Push out the same idea to the media, and the general American public will rally and cry for it (well, a few concerned citizens with too much time and too little intelligence will send some e-mails to their congressmen) causing congress to back the plan (well, some interns will get a few minutes with their congressperson to mention some odd e-mails about this, and the congressperson will back the plan without doing any sort of research), and it's practically guaranteed!

    Oh, and will you look at that, the same technology used to protect us from terrorists can also detect killer asteroids and potentially habitable planets in a galaxy far, far away.

    Well, ain't that a coincidence. TWAT succeeds yet again!
  • Bathtub drowning (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Catbeller (118204) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @11:53AM (#18251026) Homepage
    Grover Norquist, neocon "think tanker" and propogandist extraordinaire, once eludicated that he wanted to shrink government down to the point where one could drown it in a bathtub. Huzzah, cheer, all that from his audience.

    Budget cuts are effectively impossible now, as discretionary spending, defined as non-obligatory, is now a tiny percentage of the Federal budget and essentially irrelevant in cost cutting.

    How does one cut then? Apparently the neocons are using a new trick: spend like maniacs. Eventually discretionary funding, like NASA, becomes impossible because so much of the budget has gone towards military and privatization expenses. So much was spent that they had to borrow trillions to keep spending more.

    Effect is that the government owes so much that the largest non-discretionary line item, outside of the military, is simply paying yearly interest on the debt. So the two biggest expenditures are now the military and paying out national treasure to service the debt of the money lent to us to cut taxes and spend like fools.

    End game: government has three purposes: spending on military, spending on now-privatized government services, and debt service on monies borrowed to spend in the 2000's (and the Reagan 80's) on tax cuts. Government becomes a military contractor, a corporate contractor, and a welfare fountain for the very wealthy, while never actually paying off the debt incurred to give tax cuts to those same very wealthy.

    And NASA doesn't get funds, the NSF gets defunded, a chain reaction of penury resulting from this spending NOW. The neocons get their new, streamlined government which looks a lot like a classic fascism, with direct-to-corporation payments, with no spending on things not deemed necessary to fund guns or debt. Bankruptcy.
    Both financial and cultural. Other nations without ideological madness spend less on military and tax cuts, keep government services cheap by using civil service, and keep debt low or nonexistent, as Canada or Norway does. Neocon ideology will cripple the future of the U.S., as we are consuming our present and future human capital to enrich the wealthy of today.
    • by cascadingstylesheet (140919) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @02:00PM (#18253178)
      on monies borrowed to spend in the 2000's (and the Reagan 80's) on tax cuts

      Look, I've grown much less libertarian over the years. I'm now OK with money being taken from people (including me) by force and spent on "good things".

      However, I'm still not OK with pretending that we're not doing that. The money is ours, the government takes some away by force and spends it. Them's the facts.

      There's no such thing as "spending on tax cuts". That would be like my wife wanting to buy something, me objecting, and then her saying "well, you would just 'spend' the money on savings or paying off debt if I don't spend it!". The one thing is spending, and the other isn't.
  • We have a war to fight people. We can't be siphoning off important funding for the wermacht so these chicken little NASA upstarts can play with more of their silly toys. In fact, it seems that these NASA types are obviously not team players and must be "against us". Therefore the Florida pan handle is next up on our schedule for liberation. Scorched earth style.
  • by peacefinder (469349) <alan.dewittNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @12:16PM (#18251396) Journal
    Doesn't Halliburton do asteroid diversion?
  • But hey, it's just the potential end of the world, so nothing much to worry about there.

    The problem is many sciences use human hazards (read end of the world) justification for increased funding: seismic research, volcanology, climatology, oceanography. The fear market is tapped out.

  • I've heard that if you took the money spent making Deep Impact and Armageddon, you'd have enough money to do the search.
  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @12:46PM (#18251960)

    But hey, it's just the potential end of the world, so nothing much to worry about there.

    So maybe the rest of the world can chip in?

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