Wednesday, November 10, 2004

AIAA Position Paper on Protecting Earth from Impacts......


About frigging time too.....Aside from the politics and sports talk on this blog, nothing gets me more fired up than our ignorance world-wide of the reality behind potentially devastating impacts from near earth objects. I'm soon to put my mind where my mouth is and get more involved with these projects. I'll keep everyone posted as to my progress. Here is a comforting report from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics call for stronger measures to protect our planet from impacts.


The purpose of this Position Paper is to briefly review what is now known about the threat to Earth posed by close approaching asteroids and comets (called Near Earth Objects or NEOs). Based on our current understanding (recently reviewed at the 2004 Planetary Defense Conference sponsored by AIAA and The Aerospace Corporation), AIAA recommends that the following steps be taken to protect the Earth from NEO impacts:

" Create an organization within the U.S. government responsible for planetary defense.

" Extend the Spaceguard Survey, currently focused on finding and cataloging 1-km-class objects and larger, to include finding and cataloging 100-m-class NEOs and larger.

" Develop and fund ground-based techniques as well as missions to several asteroids to gather information that contributes to designing deflection missions.

" Conduct mission design studies to characterize requirements for short-, medium-, and long-term missions.

" Conduct flight tests to demonstrate our ability to change a NEOs orbit.

" Sponsor research to assess the political, social, legal, and disaster relief consequences of a serious NEO threat, mitigation effort, or possible impact.

The key paragraph from this report-
The success of a deflection mission will depend on public funding and support and, as a result, increasing public awareness of the NEO threat is important. Providing credible information on past impacts, on observed and predicted close approaches, and on mitigation activities will increase public awareness that impacts do happen and that the possibility of future impacts is not being ignored.

A major shortcoming is the lack of an organization within the U.S. government responsible for the planetary defense issue. Such an organization would coordinate measurement activities and threat warnings, sponsor mission design studies, encourage innovative deflection techniques, and be a focal point for worldwide planetary defense-related research.

And the conclusion-

While noteworthy efforts are being made to detect threatening objects, Earth is effectively blind to NEO objects of a size range that could lead to immediate and long term deaths of thousands to millions of people and is unprepared should a short term threat be detected. The Executive Summary of the UK Report of the Task Force on Potentially Hazardous Near Earth Objects states: The threat of Near Earth Objects raises major issues, among them the inadequacy of current knowledge, confirmation of hazard after initial observation, disaster management (if worst came to worst), methods of mitigation including deflection, and reliable communication with the public. &Steps should be taken at government level to set in place appropriate bodies&where these issues can be discussed and decisions taken.

Consistent with the recommendation of the Task Force and previous AIAA Position Papers, this Position Paper also iterates that world governments must take the threat of NEO impacts seriously and must support actions that lead to the development of credible defensive capabilities.

While the probability of an impact of an object of sufficient size to cause major loss of life and property damage is low, it is not zero. For the first time, life on our planet has the ability to defend itself against the inevitable. The AIAA is of the position that the world must begin to prepare for that eventuality now.

As stated on this blog many times, NASA has a budget in the billions of dollars a year range. If we spend anything less than 25% of this budget on NEO's detection and mitigation, we are simply wasting valuable time. Not a single NASA non-NEO related program will amount to anything of significance once a potential impactor is discovered. Mars is pretty and all, but knowing whether or not aliens lived there will not help us deflect, for example, a MILE wide anvil flying at mach 20.

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