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Space NASA

NASA Forms New Planetary Defense Office To Manage Asteroid Threats (cnn.com) 63

An anonymous reader writes: NASA has set up a new Planetary Defense Coordination Office to detect and track near-Earth objects. CNN reports: "The department, which includes the position of Planetary Defense Officer, is managed by the Planetary Science Division of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington DC. And its mission includes the early detection of potentially hazardous objects (PHOs) — asteroids and comets which get within 0.05 Astronomical Units of Earth's orbit around the sun (7.5 million kilometers) and are large enough, greater than around 30 — 50 meters (98 — 164 feet), to reach the Earth's surface." Bruce Willis had no comment on his level of involvement in the new agency.
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NASA Forms New Planetary Defense Office To Manage Asteroid Threats

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  • A good start (Score:4, Informative)

    by XXongo ( 3986865 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @05:59PM (#51296409) Homepage
    OK, having an office to track the potentially hazardous objects is a good start.

    Eventually, we'll also want to have capability to deal with them...

    • Instead of just making power points about them.
    • Cool - but with what?

      The tiny stuff could be nuked easily enough, but the really big stuff would just create a lot of really big (and now somewhat radioactive) rubble to carpet-bomb whatever place gets the impact.

      Most non-destructive solutions require enough forewarning to slowly nudge the rock out of Earth's way.

      I suspect that the only real long-term solution would be to put people off-earth in permanent colonies, enough to repopulate if need be. Then again, that carries its own potential problems as well.

      • A bunch of ideas here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/el... [forbes.com]

        I like the "asteroid versus asteroid" concept: to move one asteroid out of the way, just hit it with another (smaller) one.

      • Re:A good start (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @07:45PM (#51297115) Homepage

        The tiny stuff could be nuked easily enough, but the really big stuff would just create a lot of really big (and now somewhat radioactive) rubble to carpet-bomb whatever place gets the impact.

        This is a common myth [energy.gov]. The reality [theatlantic.com] is that simulations show that nuclear weapons can readily both deflect large asteroids without destroying them, or alternatively destroy them into bits too small to pose a threat and with too much momentum to reform into a large impactor. And even if that wasn't the case, there's also significant dispute among experts to the popularly repeated concept that a bunch of small pieces are worse than one big piece, as smaller pieces come in at varying time and thus spread out the heat load, ejecta load, etc, experience more burnup, produce much less powerful tsunamis that don't "echo" around the Earth as much, etc.

        There's really no other option that has the sort of combination of A) near term technology, B) little lead time to deploy, C) minimal lead time required for effective deflection, D) low odds of failure, and E) capability of deflecting very large objects with small payloads - nuclear detonation, whether via standoff deflection or explosive disassembly, in is better than all or almost all competitors in every single category (kinetic impactors are slightly better in some categories but provide orders of magnitude less deflection capability for a given payload size)

        • When you're in the asteroid-deflecting business, lead time is everything. LONEOS was a good start, but our lomg-term existence may depend on being able to see deeper and deeper into the Oort Cloud.

    • by plopez ( 54068 )

      Right which is why we need to build missile bases on the moon and Mars immediately

  • by presidenteloco ( 659168 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @06:02PM (#51296431)

    of impact of a really dangerous one

    in time to expend a lot of money on an active defense launch?
    (e.g. a launch of an ION thruster which would sit on the object and when at correct orientation, would fire to push it slowly into a safe trajectory)

    1. The farther out the object is, the less certain the prediction of Earth impact is.
    but
    2. The object has to be quite far out for active defense to work.

    Has anyone run the numbers on this?

    We seem to have a lot of trouble investing in EFFECTIVE levels of action on a certain unnamed problem that science is, say 97% certain is going to affect us.

    Assuming we had built one just in case,
    wouuld we send a $100 billion defense system out on a 1% chance of asteroid impact?
    10%? 50%? 90%? 97%? How about a 1/1000 chance? or 1/1000,000 chance of catastrophic impact?

    • just turn the laser the other way and we can wipe out anyone we want.

      • ...who needs a laser? Just make sure the thing is big enough to obliterate The Enemy(tm), but small enough to not significantly wipe out Earth's ecosystem.

  • by Virtucon ( 127420 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @06:06PM (#51296461)

    No authority, no resources to do something about it. It's just another "Hey look! we're doing something" office to soak up tax dollars. The feds are excellent about creating departments and positions that don't do anything.
     

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      Yeah, but it's a profit center. There are people literally willing to pay to work in exchange for the official title of "Planetary Defense Officer".

      You can walk into a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and tell them to pipe down, you're not working on national defense, you're working on planetary defense.

      • Yeah, because you totally wouldn't be able to fight the chicks off with a shit-smeared falchion.

      • Yeah, but it's a profit center. There are people literally willing to pay to work in exchange for the official title of "Planetary Defense Officer".

        I was just thinking how cool that would sound at parties.

    • Just what I was thinking. A cushy job with a great title ("Planetary Defense Officer") that doesn't do anything.

      It reminds me of the ad by LifeLock where the guy in a bank in a security officer uniform tells people lying on the floor that he's not a security guard, he's just a security notifier. "I'm just here to tell people there's a robbery. There's a robbery".

      "I'm not here to defend you people against asteroids about to hit the earth, I'm just here to tell you to duck. Duck."

      Imagine in ten years this

      • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

        You know, you shouldn't mind, if your asteroid has nothing to hide, planetary citizen.

    • Naww, SpaceX is making the old NASA rapidly obsolete. In a decade, NASA will be out of the launch business, out of the space station business, and possibly out of the aeronautics research business. They don't want to just be the guys with planetary probes, so now they're going to try to move in on quiet Air Force territory. Never underestimate a bureaucrat facing budget cuts.

  • Do we get to wear slick white body armor and talk through a gizmo that makes us sound like Jack-In-The-Box ordering stations?

  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @06:08PM (#51296489) Homepage Journal

    Look on the bright side. We'll all have high schools named after us.

  • The UFO defense clause gets added later, if it hasn't already been included into the charter.
    • Moonbase, to Shado Control, Moonbase to Shado control. Now, to see the gorgeous chicks in purple wigs(*) (*) For those of you born before 1970., Google Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's TV show, UFO, done in the UK.
      • I'm trying to work out whether you meant after 1970, and I really can't. Time to stack them Zees, methinks.

        • Sorry, you're right. I should have said 'If you were born before 1970 you may remember this show but after 1970 that's probably not as likely.'
  • "They're saying an asteroid is coming just so you will spend a lot more money on big government. But what if the asteroid isn't going to hit? I mean like tons of them have passed by us without incidents since the beginning of time (~4,000bc)"

    • I daresay tons of them have hit us in this time too. Let's see, 1 cubic meter of rock is about, what, 2.5 tons?
  • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @06:39PM (#51296705) Homepage Journal
    The most dangerous asteroids are coming from the vicinity of Uranus. I hope they investigate them first.
  • by U2xhc2hkb3QgU3Vja3M ( 4212163 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @07:20PM (#51296973)

    The Bugs send another meteor our way!

    But this time we are ready!
    Planetary defenses are better than ever!
    Would you like to know more?

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @07:38PM (#51297067) Homepage Journal

    Planetary Defense Office? Really? About the only thing worse I can think to call it is the Planetary Defense Registry of Motor Vehicles..

    Here's how I'd sex up the presentation. I'd call it the Planetary Defense Force, issue snazzy uniforms and fund the program by selling T-shirts and caps. I feel certain that would raise far more money than Congress would ever appropriate for this purpose, except possibly in the event we noticed an asteroid that's actually going to hit us next Tuesday.

  • I think "Planetary Defense Office" is a cool name. Someone should invite William Shatner.
  • I'm wondering how they're going to 'patrol' the galaxy for 'incomings'. I suppose incoming-light imagery wouldn't be enough, and it would take a periodic certain-frequency multidirectional 'wave blast', to pick up its return reflecting from anything hiding out there... great way to announce our presence, too.

    Or am I thinking too much again?

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