Asteroid Threat to Earth: Office of Planetary Defense Backed
October 15, 2010 Ask the Expert, Education Station, Exploration, International Cooperation, NASA, Our Solar System, Planet Earth, Space and Science
How best to deal with an incoming Near Earth Object – or NEO for short — is getting increased attention in Washington, D.C.
It’s called planetary defense, an ability to fend off an asteroid on a trajectory that will strike Earth. That vision has moved from giggle factor to factual study by various organizations within the United States and abroad.
For example, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has been delving into organizational responsibility for a planetary defense office. Their view of the situation is forthcoming.
Meanwhile, a seven-person Ad-Hoc Task Force on Planetary Defense of the NASA Advisory Council has completed their report.
The task force was chaired by former astronauts, Russell Schweickart and Thomas Jones. Other members of the special study squad were from academia, NASA, as well as a space research institute.
In their final report, the task force proposes five recommendations:
* Organize for Effective Action on Planetary Defense
NASA should establish an organizational element to focus on the issues, activities and budget necessary for effective Planetary Defense planning; to acquire the required capabilities, to include development of identification and mitigation processes and technologies; and to prepare for leadership of the U.S. and international responses to the impact hazard.
* Acquire Essential Search, Track, and Warning Capabilities
NASA should significantly improve the nation’s discovery and tracking capabilities for early detection of potential NEO impactors, and for tracking them with the precision required for high confidence in potential impact assessments.
* Investigate the Nature of the Impact Threat
To guide development of effective impact mitigation techniques, NASA must acquire a better understanding of NEO characteristics by using existing and new science and exploration research capabilities, including ground-based observations, impact experiments, computer simulations, and in situ asteroid investigation.
* Prepare to Respond to Impact Threats
To prepare an adequate response to the range of potential impact scenarios, NASA should conduct a focused range of activities, from in-space testing of innovative NEO deflection technologies to providing assistance to those agencies responsible for civil defense and disaster response measures.
* Lead U.S. Planetary Defense Efforts in National and International Forums
NASA should provide leadership for the U.S. government to address Planetary Defense issues in interagency, public education, media, and international forums, including conduct of necessary impact research, informing the public of impact threats, working toward an internationally coordinated response, and understanding the societal effects of a potential NEO impact.
By Leonard David