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International Organization To Assess Earth Defense From Space Dangers 93

Posted by samzenpus
from the raise-shields dept.
arisvega writes in with a story about an international organization that is trying to come up with options to save the planet from a large asteroid or comet collision. "NEOShield is a new international project that will assess the threat posed by Near Earth Objects (NEO) and look at the best possible solutions for dealing with a big asteroid or comet on a collision (PDF) path with our planet. The effort is being led from the German space agency's (DLR) Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin, and had its kick-off meeting this week. It will draw on expertise from across Europe, Russia and the US. It's a major EU-funded initiative that will pull together all the latest science, initiate a fair few laboratory experiments and new modelling work, and then try to come to some definitive positions. Industrial partners, which include the German, British and French divisions of the big Astrium space company, will consider the engineering architecture required to deflect one of these bodies out of our path."
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International Organization To Assess Earth Defense From Space Dangers

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Drill & nuke!

    • by loustic (1577303) on Sunday January 22, 2012 @12:01PM (#38781539)
      We just need one more *orginization* to save us from typos and humanity is saved ...
    • Nuke it from orbit, it's the only way to be sure.

      Oh, wait.

    • Re:Armageddon! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Sunday January 22, 2012 @01:06PM (#38782171) Homepage Journal

      Yep. And, early detection is most important. Waiting til the damned huge ass rock is a month away ensures that our best efforts will be worth shit. If we can get a team on the rock a year before impact, even a tiny deflection in it's course will work to avert disaster.

      Of course, a nuke isn't necessary, if you get on the rock early enough. A few tons of thrust from a chemical rocket would be good enough. Or, a chemical bomb dropped down the well that you've drilled. Nukes are sexy, but not essential.

      • by bobstreo (1320787)

        Or maybe just a solar sail deployed by a robot probe.

        If you have enough warning, other than that, we'll need to start cloning Bruce Willis.

      • Agreed. It's been a while, but I believe we have a limited chance of detecting an asteroid before it comes too close to use a nuke.

        • believe we have a limited chance of detecting an asteroid before it comes too close to use a nuke.

          I'm not sure you understand the issue. A nuke won't actually make an asteroid disappear in a ball of flame. This is not an episode of Star Wars where you fly through the debris of your kill. This is reality, where detonating an asteroid with a nuclear bomb just turns it into millions of pounds of rocks and dust that will hit the earth anyway. As it is the dust that will kill the whole planet's ecosystem, a

          • The makeup of the asteroid determines whether or not we would use nukes. They come in a few different types, last I checked.

            A solid core asteroid can, with enough planning and time, be deflected by a nuke (probably several). A rocky asteroid, not so much.

            And yes, I do understand the issue.

            • by dissy (172727)

              A gravity tractor approach can work against any type of asteroid, including the ones that are nothing more than a ball of dust so large that its own gravity is all that holds it together.

              The tractor would need to fly out to the asteroid, be able to maneuver itself to stay in a relative position to it, and just keep itself there. It will slowly modify the course of the asteroid by pulling it in one direction or the other, or by speeding it up or slowing it down by being positioned in front or behind.

              We prett

            • They come in a few different types, last I checked.

              Last I checked, the law of gravity worked the same no matter what you are made of. A hammer made out of feathers is just as heavy as a hammer made out of the same mass of metal.

              And it falls at the same rate.

              Nuking asteroids is stupidity. No, I do not think you understand what the fuck you are talking about at all. This isn't a cartoon.

              • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

                by lightknight (213164)

                And that's not a refutation of what I've said.

                The issue with using nukes, as pointed out by yourself earlier, is that for rocky types of asteroids, they can break apart in a great number of pieces which will not burn up in atmosphere. However, for solid types, it may be possible to use a nuclear weapon to alter the trajectory of an oncoming asteroid; the point here is that the asteroid would absorb the vast majority of the energy, and not break apart; or if it does, it will be into several manageable pieces

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            This is reality, where detonating an asteroid with a nuclear bomb just turns it into millions of pounds of rocks and dust that will hit the earth anyway. As it is the dust that will kill the whole planet's ecosystem, a nuke is the opposite of the right idea.

            That's a great mix of science and bullshit you've got going on.

            Yes, you're correct that a nuke would turn a solid core object into a shotgun blast of rubble.
            No, you're not correct that the danger is from the dust flying through space. The dust you're thinking of is what gets kicked up into the atmosphere following an actual impact.

            If you could reduce the solid object into rubble, yes it will still hit the atmosphere. But any of the individual pieces which are small enough will simply burn up before impact,

      • by SlippyToad (240532) on Sunday January 22, 2012 @02:59PM (#38783177)

        I think the nuke idea came from Edward Teller, who was basically a pyromaniac given a government grant.

        He was just jazzed to blow up things, and applying gigantic nuclear explosions to meteorites would have given him jack-off material for the rest of his life.

        Of course I think he's dead now, so we can do something that a sane person would.

      • by GIL_Dude (850471)
        You may not be able to put much thrust on one of these objects. Many of them are "rubble piles" so the chemical rocket would just go right through. Others are indeed bound together, but without a high gravity to really cause heating, melting, etc. you still don't have an object that can take much delta-v. Perhaps instead a giant net with a solar sail? I don't know - smarter people than me will need to come up with the answer.
        • In the case of a loose cluster of rubble, a bomb is a good idea - just not nuclear. Put the bomb near the center of the mess, back off, detonate it by radio signal, and watch the billiard ball effect. Instead of a full choke shotgun blast hitting the earth, we get a no-choke spread, with much of the blast missing the earth entirely. All the little bitty bits will just burn up in the atmosphere, larger bits make awesome fireworks, slightly larger bits might actually strike the earth, while the largest bits

      • by flyneye (84093)

        Will no one address Hawkings fear of disaster from invasion? I mean putting a nuke on an incoming spacecraft probably IS a better solution than an additional thrust rocket, in that case.
        Then the bedwetting recollection of our central massive multiplayer black hole at the center of it all , hurtling a star across the milkyway in a slick slingshot maneuver. What about being the path of a hole "Bowling for planets" with a star? How about another planet or someones st

      • Of course, a nuke isn't necessary, if you get on the rock early enough. A few tons of thrust from a chemical rocket would be good enough. Or, a chemical bomb dropped down the well that you've drilled. Nukes are sexy, but not essential.

        If it's small enough, and we see it far off, all sorts of things will work. But if it's large and close we need a nuke. So we shouldn't dismiss it. By this criterion, at least, nukes are better than non-nukes. Is there any way in which nukes are worse?

        Basically the nuke, set off alongside and used to deflect rather than disrupt, solves more of the problem space for any given launch mass than anything else I've heard discussed. A lot of people mock nukes but as far as I can tell they remain the natural solut

    • by riverat1 (1048260)

      A nuke just turns a 50 caliber bullet into a 10 gauge shotgun load.

  • "Orginization" (in the headline) should be spelled "Organization"

  • Does NO ONE do spell checking anymore? It takes 10 seconds!
    • high thruput. quality does not matter anymore, but output does.

      we see it first-hand, here. demand to get something out 'quick' and all else be damned.

      this is the back-story, whether they wanted it or not..

    • by jcreus (2547928)
      In related news... CmdrTaco comes back!
    • by Brad1138 (590148)
      I dual boot 7 & Mint. I use FF and Chrome in both (90%+ of the time Chrome in Mint). All have inline spell check. Only IE doesn't (or didn't last time I used it), but I would think IE usage is pretty low here. Is it that hard to figure out how to turn spell check on?
  • Seriously. Fiction is ripe with way better names than that. Next time just swipe one! I'd feel much safer in the hands of the Earth Defense Force.
  • by Dogbertius (1333565) on Sunday January 22, 2012 @12:05PM (#38781571)
    New Avengers, assemble!!!

    Failing that, we still have Bruce Willis, Steve Buscemi, and Aerosmith.
  • by digitaldc (879047) *
    I, for one, welcome our Dangerous Space Overlords.
  • Currently, the B612 Foundation http://www.b612foundation.org/b612/ [b612foundation.org] is interested in similar stuff but is an NGO. Although they have a much smaller budget (and to some extent do more in the way of lobbying rather than direct research) They have the virtue of having a much better name than "NEOShield." B612 is the name of the asteroid in "The Little Prince".

    The group NEOshield from their reports seems to have correctly acknowledged that using a big nuke to just blow up an asteroid is not a good solution.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      However, it does seem like they aren't very sure what would be the actual best thing to concentrate on.

      orion [wikipedia.org] in reverse, of course. not one big nuke...

    • by icebike (68054) *

      This is an EU operation.
      That fact alone pretty much guarantees B612 will be more effective.

      • It's a German lead European operation, that alone makes it more effective and stronger than anything from the US or B612.

  • Many not build upon the Hollywood's decades of pain staking research into the subject. Clearly the cheapest, quickest, and most effective manner is to send Bruce Willis into space with a nuke. Problem solved.
    • by ae1294 (1547521)

      I for one say we just move the earth out of the way. Perhaps place it in a safer orbit away from all these space rocks.

  • If we want to avoid collisions like that the most important thing to work on would be the detection of potentially dangerous objects and the accurate prediction of their trajectories. Deflection techniques won't receive funding until we have proof that the danger is real, now if we know it 20-30 years in advance that will be enough time to develop and deploy some kind of deflection. Also, if we want these to work we need a lot of very accurate information of the target object. So while these plans are certa

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Hungry and out of work scientists create a reason to collect a paycheck yet not be expected to actually work for it.

  • by wbr1 (2538558) on Sunday January 22, 2012 @01:00PM (#38782131)
    They are looking at the issue from the wrong direction. We should not work for ways to destroy or deflect an asteroid. There are many other things that can cause catastrophic loss of life on this planet, from 'mega-volcanoes', nuclear war, epidemic diseases, and yes even -gasp- climate change.

    Instead of moving the danger of our path, we should be moving ourselves off the path of danger. We need an off site backup for humanity at least, if not as much of the biosphere as we could manage. Eventually, something WILL destroy 99.9% of life on Earth. It has happened before and will again, whether 10 years or 10,000 years from now.
    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Sunday January 22, 2012 @01:16PM (#38782287) Homepage

      You realize, of course, that important backups never work when you need them.

      We're doomed.

    • by TFAFalcon (1839122) on Sunday January 22, 2012 @01:48PM (#38782599)

      Any other location would be just as volnurable (or even more) to an asteroid as Earth is. So why not do both? Expand beyond Earth AND develop ways to stop asteroids? If one hits Earth it will be many thousands of years (even if we presume that it survives and absolutely everything goes well) before a colony would be capable of developing anything that could defend it from subsequent strikes.

    • It is significantly cheaper to patch security holes in our current human-sustaining ecosystem project than to try to start a new one from the ground up.
      • What's the environmental equivalent of a firewall, then? Should I buy Norton AntiDesertification 2012?

        • by wbr1 (2538558)
          No, because Norton will throw a little sand in the room and scream that yo need their product to protect against it.

          ZoneAlarms Desert Defender free is much better.
    • by pwandrew (2556768)
      Actually this is a more immediate problem then you might think. I agree that we need start worrying about other problems (climate change, epidemic, ourselves) but there is still a definite risk of NEO's hitting Earth. NASA knows of plenty of risks and has them laid out in a chart here http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/risk/ [nasa.gov]. If my memory serves me right (this is based on information my roommate told me who worked for NASA at the time) there is an object that will pass by Earth late 2012 and when it does scientist wil
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Hentes (2461350)

      Yeah but if the Earth is only destroyed 10000 years from now than I don't really care. Also, it's impossible to move any significant portion of humanity out of Earth, a human just can't produce enough in their lifetime to get them a ticket out of here.

      • It's also impossible for a human to build a 747 from scratch starting with a pile of rocks and some sticks. We have this little thing called civilization that lets us coordinate on big projects. :-)

    • by izomiac (815208)
      Well, historically, astronomic events have eradicated most life on Earth several times. It's probably the reason intelligent life was able to evolve, i.e. life never stays in an evolutionarily stable system [wikipedia.org]. As for how real the threat is... If the Tunguska Event [wikipedia.org] hadn't happened in one of the least populated areas of the planet then the loss of human life would have been tremendous (~15 Megaton explosion).

      That said, we're defenseless against many astronomic events, such as a Gamma Ray Burst [wikipedia.org] (we get a d
      • by khallow (566160)

        As for terrestrial causes of mass loss of life, I'd imagine the economy is the foremost killer. It costs us an incredible number of life-years each year due to cheap food, stress, addiction, and poor access to healthcare.

        Expensive food (that is, food expensive enough that it registers on developed world eaters' budgets) would be even a greater killer. Rather it's biological reasons (we tend to overeat in the presence of copious food or involve ourselves in stuff to the extent that we become stressed or addicted) for most of that stuff. And an ongoing inefficiency really doesn't count as a "catastrophe" especially when it has always been around and has improved in recent decades.

  • by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Sunday January 22, 2012 @01:10PM (#38782217) Homepage Journal

    The are presently reviewing a Space Defense System that consists of a miles long series of defensive shields protecting a rail-mounted missile platform with gaps between the shields creating launch apertures. The missile platform can be operated remotely, much in the same way as current UAV drones. However, there is no missile guidance control and the display is very pixelated with only 1-bit color depth. if you ask me, they'll need to vastly improve the graphics if they want to see this proposal get accepted.

    • by gmhowell (26755)

      I saw a prototype of this system once. One major problem you didn't mention is that only one defensive missile can be in the atmosphere at a time. A second cannot be launched until the first either hits a bogey or escapes.

      Oh, and the 1-bit problem? On the version I saw, they jazzed it up a bit with a dyed mask covering parts of the screen.

      • by Billlagr (931034)
        Of course, any would-be operators are required to have a bulging pocket of small change available and ready to go at a moment's notice.
  • Just because it's improbable, doesn't mean it's impossible...

  • While both scenarios are extremely improbable, I wonder what the odds are of being struck by an extinction level asteroid or comet vs being invaded or flat out destroyed by aliens. (I'm assuming that the alien invasion scenario probably hasn't happened in the past because there were no technological beings here for them to worry about.)
    • by dkf (304284) <donal.k.fellows@manchester.ac.uk> on Sunday January 22, 2012 @03:19PM (#38783365) Homepage

      While both scenarios are extremely improbable, I wonder what the odds are of being struck by an extinction level asteroid or comet vs being invaded or flat out destroyed by aliens.

      On the one hand the likelihood of dino-killer-class impactor is pretty low (but non-zero), and on the other hand we've got zero evidence that there are aliens with the ability to get here at all. Hmm, won't worry too much about either then. The gripping hand is that the likelihood of a city-killer impactor is quite a lot higher: the last known one of that sort of scale was only around a century ago (and luckily hit Siberia, a long way from anywhere; a Tunguska-level hit to any modern city would be terrifying in the amount of destruction). It's also going to be a lot easier to deflect those smaller objects, provided we spot them early enough; with a decade's worth of heads up, we should be able to ensure total safety.

    • While both scenarios are extremely improbable, I wonder what the odds are of being struck by an extinction level asteroid or comet vs being invaded or flat out destroyed by aliens.

      We have a chance of stopping an extinction-level asteroid, if we see it with plenty of warning. Against starfaring aliens we have no realistic chance. Our best hope is to surrender, and hope their copy of To Serve Man was written by Jack Williamson rather than Damon Knight.

  • Who else read the title and got distracted thinking about alien attacks before they even got to the summary?

  • Is the best way to protect us from 'The One'.

    "Do you hear that? It is the sound of inevitability. I'm going to enjoy watching you die, Mr. Asteroid."

    Oh wait, wrong movie.
  • I am disappointed, they do not say :p

  • From TFA:

    Since NEOs in the size range 100 - 500 m are at least an order of magnitude more frequent than km-sized objects, it seems prudent to focus mitigation planning on the smaller size range

    That's not very good thinking. What if the larger ones do much more damage?

    Given the political and ethical problems associated with nuclear explosive technology, this method is generally considered appropriate only in extreme circumstances in which no other current mitigation option is viable (e.g. short warning time or NEO diameter larger than 1 km).

    Ethical problems? With nuking an asteroid that was going to hit the earth? What are they?

    It sounds like they are letting politics drive their key engineering decisions.

    The approval of an internationally recognized decision-making authority would be an essential prerequisite to the deployment of powerful explosive devices on space missions.

    I think if an asteroid were actually about to hit the earth most political problems would dissolve.

  • Large Near Earth Asteroidss are not the real threat to our planet; large comets inbound from the Oort Cloud pose a much greater threat because the response time would be measured in months in a best-case scenario. While conjecture about whether we nuke or bump or tow Near Earth Asteroids is a wonderful way to gain funding for detection and mitigation programs the true threat is being ignored. The impacts of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter left little doubt of what would happen if Earth was in the wrong
  • Residing in orbits not nearly as long elliptical. Coming to a theatre near you!
  • The "assessment" has been completed and - in a very objective way - has found that we need more funding.

The person who's taking you to lunch has no intention of paying.

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