05 June 2008

We need an Expose!

A couple days ago, someone asked me, why, with so much good -- almost nightly -- education about the Planetary Defense problem, why was there so little being done?

I think it is because it has stayed in the Science arena, and people have not yet placed it in the Policy arena, and in particular the Security arena. At ISDC, SFF's Charles Miller characterized the current lack of clear responsiblity as irresponsible and unsupportable. The panel (which featured only NASA and no DoD representatives) declined to provide a clear opinion. Another questioner made the point that if someone from the DoD said, "Mr. President, there is a 1 in 300 chance that Al Qaeda will detonate a nuke somehwere on Earth."--you'd bet they'd get more than $4 million a year to prevent it. Dr. Pascal Lee, who was also on the panel suggested the President declare them WMD's (wanderers of mass destruction).

So what we need is NOT another edutainment program on comet or asteroid strikes, we need a 20/20 or 60 minutes expose:

STRATCOM, you have responsibility for WMD & Space, every day you see the satelite feeds, you are the primary customer for the Space Situational Awareness network, do you meen to say you don't have a scenario?

NORTHCOM & DoHS & FEMA, you do domestic emergency planning; you watch the same TV programs, do you meen to tell us you have no such contingency plan?

AIR FORCE, you purport to protect America in space, what have / are you doing to mitigate a potential threat? Isn't this within your competencies? Aren't you ashamed to have NASA fillin in for your Space Situational Awareness?

Air Force Space Command, you run wargames, tell me why you have never run one on this topic? Is the protection of the American people not a concern? You've had decades of internal advocates from SpaceCast2020 to AF2025 to today, why haven't you stepped up to it?

OSD & Joint Staff, you write trends and shocks, you see the same TV we do, why is this not included in your shocks?

Missile Defense Command & DTRA, you have responsibility for incoming threats and WMD problems, you mean you have no contingency plans?

National Security Space Office, you coordinate across all these agencies, why have you not provided a recommendation or initiated an architecture study? You know about the statistics, that there are about 5415 NEOs of which some 743 are a kilometer or larger that would cause global devastation; you know that 953 of those are potentially hazardous, and that if we were to do a proper survey, there are probably 400,000 NEOs of 45 m in diameter and that 30 m is large enough to penetrate the atmosphere and decimate a city the size of DC, and that we barely know where 90% of the asteroids 1km are, and haven't a clue about those smaller than 140m. And that is the easy problem. Comets, which can come much faster with less warning must also be considered, with some 1,000 known Kuiper Belt Objects, and perhaps 50,000-100,000 more, and then at least 1,000 planetary bodies in the Oort Cloud, some as larger or larger then the Earth and perhaps a Trillion Comets.

Dr. Bong Wie of University of Iowa really puts things in perspective in one of his briefings pointed out:
A 300m asteroid would have a mass of 40Billion kg.
That is roughly 100,000 Boeing 747s traveling at a speed of 10 km/s, imparting an Impact damage = 10 million times that of 9/11!

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