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Space Earth

3 Former Astronauts: Earth-Asteroid Collisions Are a Real But Preventable Danger 71

Posted by timothy
from the asteroid-survival-movies-are-great dept.
Three former astronauts — Ed Lu, Tom Jones, and Bill Anders — say that reassuring figures about the rarity of asteroid collisions with Earth are perhaps too reassuring. The B612 Foundation, of which Lu is a director, has been established to draw public awareness to the risks of a large asteroid hitting a population center -- which these three men say is a far more serious public danger than has been acknowledged by NASA and other agencies. And beyond awareness, the Foundation's immediate goal is to raise money to " design and build an asteroid-finding space telescope and launch it by 2017," and then, Armageddon-style, to follow that up with technology to divert any asteroids whose path would threaten earth.
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3 Former Astronauts: Earth-Asteroid Collisions Are a Real But Preventable Danger

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  • by OneAhead (1495535) on Saturday April 19, 2014 @05:59PM (#46796909)
    I'm not saying these guys don't have a valid point, but why is something important because an astronaut says it? Aren't astronauts usually pilots who received advanced training for going to space? How does their word carry more weight than scientists or analysts who have studied the subject their whole life? Again, their point may or may not be valid, but this is the kind of stuff that belongs in a Sunday newspaper. For "news for nerds", I at least expect an article in Scientific American.
  • KSP ARM (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Optimal Cynic (2886377) on Saturday April 19, 2014 @06:12PM (#46796979)
    No need to worry, we're busy training up the populace with the Asteroid patch to Kerbal Space Program.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday April 19, 2014 @06:33PM (#46797071) Journal
    Aside from the technical difficulties (which are certainly real; but probably surmountable with time and funding), I would be concerned about the political side of the project(politics being...somewhat less of a solved problem... than space and blowing things up).

    The technology sufficient to divert an asteroid, especially with limited warning(which precludes some of the subtler 'attach an ion drive or give it a slow shove with a laser' type schemes), is probably pretty punchy, possibly 'basically an ICBM but better at escaping earth's gravity well' punchy. It would be an unfortunate irony if, in the attempt to mitigate the city-destroying-asteroid threat, we ended up with some sort of proliferation problem or another round of delightful nuclear brinksmanship.

    In an ideal world, you'd hope that people could put "Stopping asteroid apocalypse" in the category of 'things more important than your petty nation-states and dumb ethnic and religious squabbles'; but I wouldn't exactly be shocked if people largely can't and every stage of an anti-asteroid project ends up being a bunch of delicate diplomacy and jingoistic dickwaving between the assorted nuclear powers, along with a lot of hand-wringing about anti-satellite capabilities, and generally a gigantic mess.
  • science fiction... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by confused one (671304) on Saturday April 19, 2014 @06:46PM (#46797147)

    Most science fiction says it happens this way:

    After the asteroid impact... Humanity pulled itself from the breach of collapse and rebuilt. Once they could regain a foothold on space, they made it a priority to put in place the necessary resources to make sure it would never happen again.

    OK, so, while it is fiction, sometimes literature provides insight into the human psyche. Frankly, I doubt you'll be able to convince the world governments to put any real money into an asteroid defense venture... that is until an impact happens and does sufficient damage to wake up all the people in power up. Most think that it will never happen. Most also believe they have more important issues to deal with in their local district and can't concern themselves with global issues.

  • by bunratty (545641) on Saturday April 19, 2014 @08:04PM (#46797457)

    Earth has been impacted by asteroids in the past, so there's nothing to worry about. It's just a natural phenomenon. Besides, the people saying we should be looking for asteroids are just greedy for grant money. If it turns out the be a real threat, I'm sure the technology to deal with it will magically appear -- with the economy the way it is we can't afford nonessential projects now.

    Remember how silly these arguments sound when applied to other potential problems.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 19, 2014 @08:57PM (#46797637)

    Ed Lu has a PhD in applied physics from Stanford. Tom Jones has a PhD in planetary science. Bill Anders has a masters in nuclear engineering.
     
    I think you need to get your head out of your ass.

  • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Saturday April 19, 2014 @08:57PM (#46797639)

    Im not sure if youre serious.

    A multi-ton object would not have any appreciable gravitational pull. The largest man-made objects ever created do not create an appreciable gravitational field. Using the calculator here:
    http://astro.unl.edu/classacti... [unl.edu]
    An asteroid with a mass of 4*10^18kg at a distance of 1km from a Saturn 5 rocket fully loaded (Mass of 4 * 10^7kg) would feel an acceleration of 0.000000001 m/s^2, and would accelerate the rocket at a rate 10 orders of magnitude higher. The only noticeable effect would be the rocket being pulled into the asteroid, barely altering its course before joining it.

    That completely ignores how insanely expensive even that minuscule experiment would be.

You see but you do not observe. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in "The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes"

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