Public and Government sectors in favor of asteroid deflection
Shiga in 09 [David, “It's behind you!” Staff Writer for New Scientist Editorial, 02624079, 9/26/2009, Vol. 203, Issue 2727, PN]
Far-fetched it might seem, but this scenario is all too plausible. Certainly it is realistic enough that the US air force recently brought together scientists, military officers and emergency-response officials for the first time to assess the nation's ability to cope, should it come to pass.
They were asked to imagine how their respective organisations would respond to a mythical asteroid called Innoculatus striking the Earth after just three days' warning. The asteroid consisted of two parts: a pile of rubble 270 metres across which was destined to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Africa, and a 50-metre-wide rock heading, in true Hollywood style, directly for Washington DC.
The exercise, which took place in December 2008, exposed the chilling dangers asteroids pose. Not only is there no plan for what to do when an asteroid hits, but our early-warning systems - which could make the difference between life and death - are woefully inadequate. The meeting provided just the wake-up call organiser Peter Garreston had hoped to create. He has long been concerned about the threat of an impact. "As a taxpayer, I would appreciate my air force taking a look at something that would be certainly as bad as nuclear terrorism in a city, and potentially a civilisation-ending event," he says.
Obama and NASA back asteroid missions
Shiga in 2010 [David, “NASA mulls sending part of space station to an asteroid”. Staff Writer for New Scientist Editorial, 02624079, 8/21/2010, Vol. 207, Issue 2774, PN]
Having scrapped plans for astronauts to return to the moon, in April President Barack Obama backed the idea of an asteroid mission. NASA engineers brainstormed how to carry out such a mission and the resulting proposals were discussed last week at a conference in Washington DC.
One idea is to dismantle the station after it is retired in 2020 and use one of its crew compartments, possibly the Tranquility module (pictured below), as part of an asteroid-bound spacecraft that would be assembled in orbit. That would avoid the need to launch such a craft from Earth.
The asteroid mission will "occur at about the time that the space station is near retirement", said Brian Wilcox of NASA, who presented the ideas at the conference. "So one has to wonder, is it possible to use assets from the station as part of your mission complement?"
Of course, the plan will rely on the space station remaining in good working order for another 15 years. That looked more hopeful this week after astronauts successfully replaced an ammonia pump that had failed on 31 July. The failure knocked out half the station's cooling system and forced part of it to be shut down.
Shiga in 2010 [David; “We're flying to an asteroid - but which one?” By: Shiga, David, Staff Writer for New Scientist Editorial, 02624079, 5/1/2010, Vol. 206, Issue 2758, PN]
DECIDING to send astronauts to an asteroid is all very well, but now NASA will have to find the few space rocks that are suitable to visit, and work out how to rendezvous safely. Last month, US president Barack Obama announced the next destination for NASA astronauts would be an asteroid, as early as 2025. The goal would be to gain experience of safely sending humans far from Earth, as a stepping stone towards longer journeys to Mars. Studying the interior of an asteroid up close could also prove important if we ever need to deflect one. Yet achieving the goal will mean overcoming daunting challenges.
AT Politics – Plan Popular with Public
The imminent threat of the asteroid will avoid political fights and create public awareness and enthusiasm.
Worden 2000 (Brigadier General S. Pete Worden, Worden is a US Air Force officer with a background as a research astronomer, “NEOS, Planetary Defense and Government – A view from the Pentagon” CCNet-Essasy, published February 7th, 2000.
What then should we do? What role should the US Government, and specifically the US DoD play in what
everyone agrees is an international concern? I believe we in the US DoD can and should agree to modify our space surveillance systems to identify and track all potentially threatening NEOs--probably down to about the 100 meter class. In parallel, in situ studies of NEOs using low-cost microsatellite missions should begin immediately. These missions can and should involve NASA, ESA, other European space agencies as well as the US DoD. These missions can use new technology to rendezvous, inspect, sample, and even impact NEOs to study their composition and structure. With an estimated cost of about $10-20M per mission, including data reduction and launch, this is an affordable program. Here is where I would focus the growth of official interest in NEOs as evidenced by the recent UK decision to stand up a formal program. And finally, I would propose focusing on the very small end of NEOs--100 meters diameter or less. At any given time there are probably tens of objects 10 meters or larger in cislunar space. These are easily accessible to the low-cost microsatellite mission. Should we worry now about mitigating the NEO hazard? I would say no, until a bona fide threat emerges. This will avoid much of the political consternation that has arisen in the past from nuclear weapon experts advocating weapons retention and even testing in space. After all, we can't reliably divert an NEO until we know much more about its structure. This we'll get from a decade of dedicated microsatellite missions. Some of these missions may even have as a side experiment moving very small (10-50 meter class) NEOs by impacting them. This could give us much of the necessary experience should a true threat emerge in the near future. Another benefit of a focused international NEO space mission suite is public awareness and enthusiasm. From a scientific standpoint, these are primordial objects--the stuff of which we were made. People throughout the world, as well as the entire scientific community, will truly embrace such an exciting endeavor. Moreover, space visionaries often look to the NEOs as the raw material of eventual space industrialization. We originally chose the title "Clementine" for the 1994 lunar and NEO probe launched by the DoD for this purpose. An old American song about a frontier miner's daughter, Clementine, was the origin of the mission's name. We hoped to evoke not only the spirit of the frontier but also to leverage the appeal that valuable lunar and asteroid mineral resources might have. In summary, I believe we have an opportunity to harness public interest, government attention and existing expertise on the NEO problem. An objective program should have two complementary parts. First, to detect and to catalog virtually all threatening objects. This can be considerably easier and cheaper if the US DoD can be persuaded to adopt it as part of its current space surveillance mission. Second, we should mount a modest, low-cost program to fully characterize the composition and structure of all classes of NEOs. The latter can and should be an international effort involving space agencies around the world. When, and not until, we find a likely threat is the time to work hard on mitigation.