30 March 2010

NASA Advisory Council Ad-Hoc Task Force on Planetary Defense Meeting 15-16 April 2010

From: http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=33790
[Federal Register: March 30, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 60)] [Notices] [Page 15742-15743] From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov] [DOCID:fr30mr10-116]


[Notice: (10-035)]

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 meeting of the Ad-Hoc Task Force on Planetary Defense of the NASA Advisory Council.

DATES: Thursday, April 15, 2010, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and Friday, April 16, 2010, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. (times are EDT).

ADDRESSES: Boston Marriott Cambridge Hotel; Two Cambridge Center, 50 Broadway; Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142; (617) 494-6600.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Jane Parham, Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Headquarters, Washington, DC 20546, 202/358-1715; jane.parham@nasa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The agenda topics for the meeting will include:

  • Ad-Hoc Task Force on Planetary Defense Terms of Reference.
  • NASA Near Earth Object (NEO) Program Status.
  • Viewpoints of various scientific organizations on NEO activities.
  • Ad-Hoc Task Force Planning.

The meeting will be open to the public up to the seating capacity of the room. It is imperative that the meeting be held on this date to accommodate the scheduling priorities of the key participants. Visitors will need to sign in and show a valid government-issued picture identification such as driver's license or passport. For questions, please call Ms. Jane Parham, at (202) 358-1715.

Dated: March 25, 2010. P. Diane Rausch, Advisory Committee Management Officer, National Aeronautics and Space Administration. [FR Doc. 2010-7124 Filed 3-29-10; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 7510-13-P


From: http://secureworldfoundation.blogspot.com/2010/03/defending-planet-earth-special.html
A partnership between Secure World Foundation and The Planetary Society has created a special publication devoted to “Defending Our World” – an impressive look at the threat to Earth from asteroids and comets.

This special issue of The Planetary Report has been produced by The Planetary Society and focuses on planetary defense, containing key articles, such as:

-- Protecting the Earth: Whose Job Is It?
-- To Move an Asteroid
-- Turning Cosmic Disaster Into Opportunity
-- We Make It Happen! Doing Our Part to Protect Earth

Phil Smith, Communications Director for the Secure World Foundation (SWF) explained: "Potentially hazardous asteroids are obviously threats we need to address. But they also present opportunities for innovations in policy and engineering. This issue of The Planetary Report highlights the nature of these asteroids, how we might be able to prevent them from impacting Earth, and how we might, in fact, use those objects that do not present an immediate threat."

As stated by Charlene Anderson, editor of The Planetary Report, “They have the potential to destroy civilization, and they whiz past our planet with alarming regularity. Sometimes we see them coming, and sometimes we don’t. They are generically known as near-Earth objects (NEOs), commonly called asteroids and comets, and they pose a natural threat greater than any faced by our species in history. Fortunately for us, it’s a threat we can do something about.”

To access this special issue on NEOs and planetary defense, go here.

29 March 2010

Planetary Defense – Who Will Save Earth? – Neo’s – the Cosmic Threat to Civilization’s Survival – What are Your Odds of Dying From an Asteroid Impact?

From: http://www.o-green.org/archives/1200

Planetary Defense – Who Will Save Earth? – Neo’s – the Cosmic Threat to Civilization’s Survival – What are Your Odds of Dying From an Asteroid Impact?

What would happen if something the size of a mountain, flying at 26 000 miles per hour (41 843 kilometers per hour), hit the Earth? Do our Governments have a plan in place to protect us from such a calamitous event? Judging by the administration’s sluggish response both before and after Hurricane Katrina the likely answer is ‘No’.
We live in a busy Solar System with lots of moving parts. Many of those parts consist of stony-iron materials known as asteroids and many of these rocky bodies have yet to be discovered and could impact with Earth at any time.
There are also many icy bodies, known as Comets. They live out past the orbits of Neptune. Any stirring of their orbits, perhaps nudged by gravitational forces of nearby stars can change their trajectories for a visit into the inner Solar System putting them on a potential collision course with Earth, also at any time.
Scientists Study Recent Developments
In January 2008 there was some news that an asteroid, known as 2007 WD5, might hit Mars. The resulting impact was projected to be similar in size to Meteor Crater, an impact crater a mile-wide in Arizona, formed in a flash of white light and fireball, when an asteroid struck there 50 000 years ago.
Around the same time, another asteroid known as 2007 TU 24 was discovered in November 2007 by the Catalina Sky Survey on October 11, 2007. Calculations determined it would pass near the Earth, on January 29, 2008, just outside the orbit of the Moon, which is considered very close in astronomical terms.
2007 TU 24 is between 150 and 600 meters in diameter. The average interval between actual Earth impacts for an object this size is estimated to be about 37 000 years. Radar Observations of 2007 TU 24 were made at the Goldstone, California in late January and early February. This will permit later 3D shape reconstruction.
In July 1994, twenty-one fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 smashed into Jupiter, leaving black and brown blotches on the planet for over a year, each blotch itself, the size of Earth. Astronomers have yet to witness an asteroid impact with another planet.
Therefore the opportunity to witness the 2007 WD5 impact on Mars was exciting to astronomers and scientists who wanted to make measurements of these types of objects as well as calculations and impact scenarios of what might happen should an asteroid, or a comet, impact with the Earth.
The Mars impact never took place as the asteroid cruised by without incident; a disappointment to astronomers who lost an opportunity to observe the direct effects of an asteroid impact on a planet similar to Earth.
Luckily for us though, the asteroid 2007 TU 24 also missed Earth. I couldn’t help wondering how we would actually have responded if the scientists had told us that the Earth-bound asteroid was headed directly for us and that, according to their calculations there was no way it was going to miss us!
How Worried Should We Be?
One of the main problems we have right now is the lack of an effective response. Even if we knew that an asteroid or comet was headed straight for us, and even if we had plenty of warning ahead of time, what would we do? Once we detect them we still have to figure out some way to safely and reliably destroy or deflect them. To date, such methods do not exist in practicum, only in theory. No missions to prove the ability to move or destroy an asteroid or comet have ever been undertaken by any country.
If an asteroid were to hit Earth, impact would likely be in the oceans as Earth is over 70% water. The effects of such an impact could include Tsunamis, which would be devastating to small Island nations and coastlines on the main land on both sides of the ocean, or could be as devastating as planet-wide environmental collapse if the projectile is large enough to punch through the ocean floor.
An asteroid could also hit land, including cities, again causing anywhere from local to global devastation depending on the size of the impactor. Food chains, transportation, infrastructure could all be leveled with a moderate impact and civilization itself can be jeopardized.
A big impact would jeopardize the survival of the entire planet, not just food chains and civilization, by kicking up tones of dust and soot high into the atmosphere, similar to gigantic volcanic eruptions which would block out the sun and change climate, killing off vegetation as temperatures plummet and no access to solar energy for photosynthesis.
When looking at the Moon, Mercury, Mars and even the Earth itself, we can see the pock-marks that tell the tale of their respective histories. As the Moon and Mercury are not subject to the forces of erosion, their battle-worn landscapes bear the scars of countless impact craters displayed in plain view; harsh reminders of the reality of every planet’s life in the brutal environment of space. These pock-marks should act as a reminder that “It’s not a matter of If an impact will happen, but when!”
According to David Morrison at NASA-AMES in an article he wrote in September 1998, on average a NEO with about 1 million megatons energy (roughly 2 km in diameter) collides with the Earth once or twice per million years, statistically speaking. An impact of this size would kill a substantial proportion of the Earth’s population and have a devastating and lasting effect on Earth’s environment. What such a statistic does not tell you of course is whether the impact will occur one million years from today, or one week from today. What is interesting to note is that the impact that most scientists believe is responsible for causing the extinction of the dinosaurs occurred 65 million years ago. That may well make us long overdue for an extinction-level strike.
Is Anyone Doing Anything About This Situation?
US Military budgets do not include Earth’s protection. The US military does not even have a mission to worry about it. The military agenda of all countries is to defend their respective countries’ interests. To date, NEO’s are not of formal interest to any military. No country or conglomerate of countries has undertaken the task, officially, to protect the Earth from NEOs.
Were an imminent impact to happen, would the government(s) even tell us at all? We have already determined that governments are not prepared to intercede, intercept and save the day. In February 2008 the US Air Force shot down an orbiting US Spy Satellite. The satellite was traveling at near asteroid speeds, at 23 000 miles per hour. Impressive as that was, who would save Earth from an impending impact?
“Space Guardians” around the world are hunting for these potentially hazardous Near Earth Objects. (That term, Space Guardians, was created by myself and based on Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s novel “Rendezvous with Rama” which featured an NEO search program called Space Guard. Sir Arthur C. Clarke very much appreciates that reference.)
The major US-based searches include the most productive sky survey, the Catalina Sky Survey, run by Steve Larson, with searches in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. The remaining searches are all uniquely located in the Northern hemisphere with money provided by NASA. They include: the US Air Force operated LINEAR program from Lincoln Laboratories, run by Grant Stokes and NEAT (Near Earth Asteroid Tracking) a JPL run operation. Spacewatch is yet another NEO search founded by Tom Gehrels and Robert McMillan and run by Robert McMillan, based near Tucson, Arizona. Finally, the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, has a search called LONEOS (Lowell Observatory Near Earth Object Search) run by Ted Bowell. There are also countless amateur astronomers around the world that help in tracking the known asteroids (sometimes even finding a few new ones themselves).
Is Luck a Sensible Strategy?
We know what will happen. It is inevitable. We’ve witnessed impacts on other worlds. Scientists are convinced that it was a Comet that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
The big impact at Tunguska in 1908 is the latest major event of its kind on Earth. Luckily it exploded over an uninhabited part of Siberia and only one person died as a result. However, the explosion was equal to that at Hiroshima and the trees that were felled for miles around the impact site remain so to this day.
While very few people on Earth consider these very real dangers from Space, thousands of relentless NEO’s traveling silently through the night go on indifferently about their business.
Learn More
For a thorough understanding of the NEO hazard and what is being done about it, watch the seminal film on this subject, “Planetary Defense”.
“Planetary Defense” speaks with military, scientific and governmental experts about the dangers we currently face and any plans for dealing with NEOs in the future. The film also features eminent science fiction author Sir Arthur C. Clarke and Apollo 9 astronaut, Rusty Schweickart, who will be advising the United Nations about the NEO risk in 2009.
The film runs 48 minutes and has nearly one hour of Bonus Features in the form of two silent slideshows. One slideshow shows a collection of asteroids and comets from NASA, JPL and other sources; the other is dedicated to impact sites here on Earth.
Find out more about the film, Planetary Defense at http://www.SpaceViz.com
For more information about NEO’s visit http://impact.arc.nasa.gov. There you will find comprehensive coverage about NEO’s by David Morrison of NASA-AMES.
A plethora of other material about the NEO hazard can be found online.

22 March 2010

New Intercollegiate Solar Power Satellite Design Competition

See: http://powersatcontest.com/

Welcome to the first ever International Collegiate Solar Power Satellite Design Competition. The competition is open to all Undergraduate and graduate students across the globe. This contest puts College Students in the shoes of Aerospace Industry Engineers designing a Space based Solar Power Satellite which will beam 10MWs of electricity down to earth. Student engineers demonstrate creativity, technical competence, management skills, space environment knowledge, teamwork, and presentation techniques to conquer the problems inherent in siting and designing a Solar Power Satellite.
Team Registration for the competition is now open.

2nd IAA Planetary Defense Conference to be held in Bucharest, Romania in May 2011.

2nd IAA Planetary Defense Conference to be held in Bucharest, Romania in May 2011.

20 March 2010

It's a matter of time


We humans can avoid the fate of our dinosaur predecessors if we start to prepare now to detect and avoid the next major asteroid strike


We have all heard the stories about the reign of dinosaurs being ended by one or more impacts of asteroids. But that was millions of years ago -- is there really any chance that such a thing could happen to us? And surely, such an event is far in the future -- should we care now?
Scientists still debate what actually terminated the dinosaurs, but it is generally agreed that Earth, like our moon, has been struck many times in the past by asteroids and comets, with at least one large impact occurring late in the time of the dinosaurs and doubtless playing a substantial role in their demise.
Impacts of space rocks have not stopped. About a dozen small fragments survive atmospheric entry and impact daily, with most hitting the ocean. Occasionally, fragments puncture a roof or dent a car -- or injure a human.
Perhaps the best known recent impact is the Tunguska event, where an asteroid or comet estimated to be 30 to 40 metres in diameter entered the atmosphere over a remote area in Siberia and exploded a few kilometres above the surface. The event levelled more than 2,000 square kilometres of the forest below, devastating an area larger than that of Washington, D.C. The force of that explosion has been estimated to be between three and five megatons of TNT.
In 1998, NASA began a search for potentially threatening objects that are one kilometre in diameter and larger -- objects large enough to cause a global catastrophe should one impact Earth. Through early 2010, we've found 887 such objects -- approximately 90 per cent of those thought to exist -- plus more than 6,700 smaller objects. While none of the larger objects poses an immediate threat, the survey did find an object that may -- an asteroid 270 metres in diameter known as Apophis.
In 2029, Apophis will pass very close to Earth, closer than our geosynchronous satellites. Earth's gravity will bend its trajectory as it passes and if it bends the precise amount, Apophis could return and strike Earth in 2036. At present, the probability of such an event is approximately one in 250,000. It will be a very bad day for our planet should it hit; not bad enough to erase humanity, but bad enough to affect millions of people and cause considerable damage in a local area.
Currently, we aren't looking for objects in the size range of Apophis. A plan to look for objects as small as 140 metres in diameter has been developed, but it has not yet been funded. Predictions are that perhaps 25,000 more threatening objects will be found once the expanded survey begins.
The likelihood of surprise impact by an object in the size range of Apophis is small, but as the Tunguska event shows, impacts by objects smaller than 140 metres can also have devastating consequences if the impact occurs in a populated area. The likelihood of a surprise impact by such an object is not that small: about one in 10 this century.
Given that threats from asteroids and comets are inevitable, what should we do to minimize the risk of impacts?
First, we must find the threatening objects. While the effort to discover objects larger than 140 metres in diameter is obviously necessary and should begin soon, some believe that we should expand the search to include smaller, 50-metre-class objects. Of course, the difficulty and cost of the discovery effort increases as the size of the objects decreases.
Second, we must find the threatening objects early. The impulse required to deflect an object away from our planet increases as the object gets closer, so we want to intercept it years before impact. Factoring in the requirement that we must build and launch a deflection campaign and that the vehicles used require time to actually reach their target, it is clear that maximizing the time to act is critical.
Third, we need to have proven techniques to deflect an asteroid or comet. Proposals include both fast-acting techniques such as nuclear explosives and impacting the object with high-speed projectiles; or slowly tugging an object using the gravitational attraction between it and a nearby spacecraft, or using lasers or focused sunlight to impart a small force. The size of the threatening object, the time remaining and other factors will affect which techniques might be applicable in a particular case. And, since some of the launches and spacecraft may fail, we can't simply launch one interceptor. We're "betting the planet" on the success of the deflection mission, so we must include mission failures in the overall campaign design.
Fourth, we must decide when to act. This may be our most difficult challenge: since time is critical, we must begin to develop the deflection hardware before we are absolutely certain the object will impact. This means that elected officials must provide funding and allocate resources without certainty that the effort is required.
Finally, such a threat will be a global concern like none other our species has faced. Nations must share responsibilities for the decision to act, and nations with capabilities to respond must co-ordinate their activities.
So what do we do now? Clearly, we need to move forward aggressively to find threatening objects. Assuming that none will be a threat in the next 50 years, we should identify, develop and test the most promising deflection techniques; we should design deflection campaigns for threats of various sizes and characteristics; we should educate the public and elected officials on the nature of the threat; and we should develop national and international protocols for making a decision to act and for working together to eliminate the threat.
It's human nature to act when the threat is certain, but we can't wait until we are absolutely sure to move forward in this area. We humans can avoid the fate of our dinosaur predecessors if we accept the challenge and initiate a stable and ongoing effort to find threatening objects and build the plans, protocols, and technologies to deflect an asteroid or comet.
As we begin this effort, let's hope we have the most precious resource we'll need -- time.
William Ailor is co-chair of the 2nd IAA Planetary Defense Conference to be held in Bucharest, Romania in May, 2011

16 March 2010

New Asteroid Threat Reports Highlight Legal and Institutional Issues


Newswise — In a presentation at the United Nations, Secure World Foundation (SWF) released the findings of a group of international experts that outlines needed steps and concerns in establishing a global detection and warning network to deal with possible Near Earth Object (NEO) threats to Earth.
An additional report, sponsored by SWF, has been issued by the space law department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, examining the legal and institutional issues linked to potential future threats posed by NEOs....

03 March 2010

The Find of the Millennium!

From: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Its-the-finding-of-the-millennium-Nair/articleshow/5635381.cms

A NASA radar aboard India's maiden lunar mission Chandrayaan-1 has detected craters filled with thick deposits of ice near the moon's north pole, the US space agency said on Tuesday.

NASA's Mini-Sar experiment found
more than 40 small craters, ranging in size from one to nine miles, containing water ice.

"Although the total amount of ice depends on its thickness in each crater, it's estimated there could be
at least 600 million metric tons of water ice," the space agency said in a statement. 
Assuming a low-ball estimate that a commercial company like SpaceX could put 100kg on the Moon for $10M, to put an equivalent amount of water from Earth would cost $100M/MT, or  $60,000,000,000 or $60B.