The NASA Advisory Council’s Ad-Hoc Task Force on Planetary Defense is grappling with a set of recommendations – one of which could have the space agency set up a coordination office to help protect Earth from Near Earth Objects (NEOs).
A special seven-person task force includes former astronauts, Russell Schweickart and Tom Jones. The two space travelers are co-chairs of the ad-hoc study group.
Among the topics the task force is reviewing as possible recommendations to NASA leadership:
– A Planetary Defense Coordination Office should be set up within the space agency.
– To help speed up observations of potentially menacing NEOs, a space-based infrared detector spacecraft, placed into a “Venus-like orbit” should be considered.
– Given a new coordination role in the NEO issue, NASA needs to initiate dialogue with emergency responders and disaster management agencies – including the Department of Homeland Security. Furthermore, NASA should outreach to other space agencies and other groups on an international basis to help shape detection and tracking efforts, as well as consider steps to mitigate any Earth- threatening NEOs.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is apparently on track to meet an October 15 deadline of identifying an agency to be responsible for Near Earth Object (NEO) mitigation.
By Leonard David
NASA Panel Calls for Asteroid Defense Office
By Leonard David
SPACE.com’s Space Insider Columnistposted: 26 July 2010
01:33 pm ET
BOULDER, Colo. — Protecting Earth from menacing space rocks that could impact our planet should be designated a top-level NASA strategic goal, according to an agency task force. To achieve that goal, NASA should establish a Planetary Defense Coordination Office to oversee the effort, the task force said.
The seven-person NASA Advisory Council's Ad-Hoc Task Force on Planetary Defense called for the new asteroid-watching office after reviewing ideas for detecting, characterizing and deflecting threatening near-Earth objects (NEOs), as well as discussing international coordination to deal with the issue.
The task force, which met here July 8-9, is reviewing its advocacy of launching an infrared detector spacecraft placed into a Venus-like orbit to provide a long-distance lookout for NEOs, which could speed up surveillance duties by decades compared to relying solely on ground-based observations.
Former astronauts Russell Schweickart and Tom Jones are co-chairs of the Ad-Hoc Task Force, which is made up of members from academia and scientific institutions including NASA.
"At the end of our process, our recommendations will go to the NASA Administrator and for the first time will address the overall issue of protecting the planet from asteroid impacts," Schweickart told SPACE.com. "Those recommendations will include not only finding NEOs that potentially pose a threat, but pro-active prevention of impacts...and working with the international community in order to be prepared to take that kind of action," he said. [Gallery: Holes in the Earth]
The group's output "will be the first time NASA will have that kind of serious, internal set of recommendations," Schweickart added.
"It really is a turning point," said Don Yeomans, a task force member and Manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
"For decades we were bumping along, barely aware that there were near-Earth objects. When NASA got involved in the mid-1990s... there's been a dramatic increase in the discovery rate. It was sort of an 'ah-ha' moment for the community in terms of science," he told SPACE.com.
Emergency management issues
The task force members are investigating using off-the-shelf hardware to fabricate a ground-based short-term warning capability. Such gear could provide many days or hours of warning about smaller, incoming space rocks. Furthermore, using commercially-available equipment could help build a system that's inexpensive but powerful, and can be easily deployed around the globe.
The task force is also considering emergency management matters, such as what to do if Earth appears poised for a bruising impact.
Speaking to that topic via remote conferencing was Dennis Mileti, professor emeritus and former director of the Hazards Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is an expert on societal aspects of hazards and disasters.
If NASA takes a lead role in planetary defense, the job of detecting threatening NEOs falls to the agency, Mileti advised. It is important, he said, to structure a highly reliable warning and messaging system, coupled with a public education campaign.
Blending NEO space scientists with emergency responders and disaster management agencies — including the Department of Homeland Security — is critical, Mileti said. "That's really mixed soup to weave together," he told the task force.
Mileti's message to NASA: "They'll need to provide the leadership to reach out to the emergency management community ... because it will not go the other way around."
- Images — Asteroids Up Close, Astronauts on Asteroids
- NASA's New Asteroid Mission Could Save the Planet
- Will an Asteroid Hit Earth? Are We All Doomed?
According to a panel of investigators from the American space agency, NASA should focus more on devising planetary defense strategies. The Ad-Hoc Task Force on Planetary Defense, a division of the NASA Advisory Council, explains that safeguarding Earth from the effects of impacts with large space rocks should be the main priority of most – if not all – space agencies worldwide. The new report shows that the creation of a Planetary Defense Coordination Office would be a large step in the right direction. International collaboration in the field is also indicated, Space reports.
The task force that is now releasing its recommendations met between July -9 in Boulder, Colorado. Its seven members looked at existing and planned methods of detecting, intercepting, deflecting and destroying incoming space rocks, and then determined that a more unified, thorough approach is needed. One of the primary things the group considered essential for our planet's safety is the construction and launch of a sensitive infrared observatory, which should be placed in a Venus-like orbit.
This type of spacecraft would allow for a more accurate and early detection of dangerous near-Earth objects (NEO), which may be lurking in the inner solar system. The panel explains that the time of protecting our planet by conducting ground-based observations alone has passed, and that space-based studies are now required as well.
“At the end of our process, our recommendations will go to the NASA Administrator and for the first time will address the overall issue of protecting the planet from asteroid impacts. Those recommendations will include not only finding NEO that potentially pose a threat, but pro-active prevention of impacts […] and working with the international community in order to be prepared to take that kind of action,” explains former astronaut Russell Schweickart.
The new conclusions represent “the first time NASA will have that kind of serious, internal set of recommendations,” he adds. The spaceflight expert was the co-chair of the Ad-Hoc Task Force, together with former NASA astronaut Tom Jones. “It really is a turning point. For decades we were bumping along, barely aware that there were near-Earth objects. When NASA got involved in the mid-1990s... there's been a dramatic increase in the discovery rate. It was sort of an 'ah-ha' moment for the community in terms of science,” says Don Yeomans. He is the manager of the NASA NEO Program Office, which is based in Pasadena, California, at the Jet Propulstion Laboratory (JPL).
More on the upcoming meeting: http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=34590
NASA Advisory Council Ad-Hoc Task Force on Planetary Defense Meeting August 2010
Date Released: Sunday, July 25, 2010
Source: NASA Advisory Council
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
NASA Advisory Council; Ad-Hoc Task Force on Planetary Defense; Meeting
AGENCY: National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
ACTION: Notice of meeting.
SUMMARY: In accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act, Public Law 92-463, as amended, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration announces a two-part meeting of the Ad-Hoc Task Force on Planetary Defense of the NASA Advisory Council.
DATES: Tuesday, August 17, 2010, 12 p.m.-3 p.m., and Friday, August 20, 2010, 12 p.m.-3 p.m. All times are Eastern Daylight Time.
ADDRESSES: The meeting will be held via WebEx/Teleconference on both dates.
August 17, 12 p.m.-3 p.m.: To view briefings, log in to Web site at https://nasa.webex.com. Meeting Number: 993 545 318. Passcode: Tuesday817! Join teleconference by dialing toll-free 888-566- 1673. Passcode: 12080.
August 20, 12 p.m.-3 p.m.: To view briefings, log in to Web site at https://nasa.webex.com. Meeting Number: 995 328 530. Passcode: Friday820! Join teleconference by dialing toll-free 888-566- 1673. Passcode: 12080.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Jane Parham, Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Headquarters, Washington, DC 20546, 202-358-1715, email@example.com.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The agenda topic is: Drafting of the Ad-Hoc Task Force on Planetary Defense Final Report to the NASA Advisory Council. The meeting will be open to the public up to the capacity of WebEx and teleconference lines. It is imperative that the meeting be held on these dates to accommodate the scheduling priorities of the key participants.
For questions, please call Jane Parham, 202-358-1815, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dated: July 19, 2010. P. Diane Rausch, Advisory Committee Management Officer, National Aeronautics and Space Administration. [FR Doc. 2010-18147 Filed 7-23-10; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE P
More info here: http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/pages/index.php?option=com_jcalpro&Itemid=109&extmode=view&extid=360&tmpl=component