17 August 2012

LAST DAY! Let NASA know your opinion on their Strategic Direction. Tell them: "Mine the Sky, Defend the Earth, Settle the Universe"

Today in the LAST DAY to provide inputs to the National Academies

PLEASE fill out public opinion for NASA Strategic Direction:
In the FY2012 appropriations bill that funds NASA, Congress requested an independent study of NASA's strategic direction. The study is being conducted by a committee of the National Research Council.

The study statement of task directs the committee to "recommend how NASA could establish and effectively communicate a common, unifying vision for NASA's strategic direction that encompasses NASA's varied missions."
Recommend you cite:
- "Mine the Sky, Defend the Earth, Settle the Universe"
- Goals from the NSS Philophy and Roadmap:
- Agenda of the SFF:
'a "frontier enabling" technology or policy is one which has as its effect the acceleration of the creation of low cost access to the space frontier for private citizens and companies,enables or accelerates our use of space resources,and/or accelerates the rate at which wealth can be generated in space.  In other words,is the project or policy going to provide a return on the national investment, if we define "return" to be the economically sustainablehuman habitation of space?"

12 August 2012

Asteroid Action Plans Form For Planetary Defense

From: http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/AW_11_28_2011_p51-395551.xml#

Asteroid Action Plans Form For Planetary Defense

By Guy Norris
November 28, 2011
Guy Norris/Boulder, Colo.
Concepts for communicating the risks and managing the threat of asteroid impacts will be considered by the United Nations following an expert working group meeting in Colorado.
The Near-Earth Object (NEO) media/risk meeting came within days of a 300-meter (984-ft.)-plus-dia. asteroid passing between the Earth and the Moon on Nov 8, and as NASA closed on additional congressional funding of more than $20 million for an ongoing survey mission aimed at finding objects posing a potential collision threat.
Although acknowledged as a statistically rare, low-probability event, asteroid impacts are seen as potential global catastrophes. Now, with 1,265 asteroids currently listed as potentially hazardous to Earth and with around 100 or more new potential impacts currently being flagged each month by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's automated collision-monitoring Sentry system, the threat is being taken increasingly seriously by governments and space agencies.
According to NASA, as of Nov 3 8,421 NEOs have been discovered, of which 830 are asteroids with a diameter of approximately 1 km or larger. A NEO is an asteroid or a comet with an orbit close to that of Earth in which the perihelion (or nearest point to the Sun) is less than 1.3 astronomical units (1.3 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun). Potentially hazardous NEOs are 500 ft. or so in diameter and follow orbital paths that come within 4.65 million mi. (7.48 million km) of Earth.
The meeting, held at University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, was organized by the Secure World Foundation and aimed at a draft report for the U.N. Action Team 14 working group on NEOs. The team forms part of the U.N.'s Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, and will present guidance to the U.N. working group at a NEO-mitigation meeting in Vienna, in February 2012.
Following a review in June next year, final recommendations will form the blueprint for possible U.N. action from 2013 onward. The working group is studying setting up an information, analysis and warning network (IAWN) to coordinate data about NEO detection, orbit analysis, impact prediction and notifications. The Colorado meeting was focused on IAWN communications, including protocols used by similar warning nets dealing with natural disasters such as hurricanes and tsunamis, as well as improving public education on the NEO phenomenon.
Parallel work is underway to set up a NEO Mission Planning and Operations Group (MPOG) that will coordinate international space agencies on the planning and conduct of missions to threatening asteroids. The MPOG will be modeled on the inter-space agency group established to monitor space debris.
The conference included discussion of communication strategies for events ranging from those with almost no warning such as the TC3 asteroid which exploded over southern Sudan in 2008 less than 21 hr. after being detected, to decades-long scenarios such as the Apophis asteroid which could potentially impact Earth in 2036.
In particular, the meeting focused on effective ways of communicating the reality of threats and evacuation notices to predicted impact zones in short-term warning scenarios. For longer-term threats, the group weighed the geopolitical implications of potential mitigation strategies involving speeding up or slowing down an asteroid. By altering an asteroid's speed, its trajectory could be altered to either miss the Earth altogether or be deflected toward less-populated areas. Such choices inevitably involve increasing the risk to certain nations and regions, while decreasing it for others, raising enormous policy questions.
Social scientists, invited to advise the group, called for transparent debate from agencies over both warnings and mitigation strategies. Dennis Mileti, director emeritus of University of Colorado's National Hazards Center, warned “the biggest issue will not be panic but getting them to take your NEO warning seriously. Human beings need to dichotomize risk. That's how they decide to do something about it or not. Don't try and explain your science to the public.”
Former Apollo astronaut and asteroid awareness trailblazer Russell Schweickart warned greater efforts and survey systems are needed. “We have many more objects that will be discovered. We're not running out of objects, we're running out of capability of our telescopes.” While roughly 94% of the largest NEOs are believed to have been located, “there are 60% still not detected in the 300-meter or so size,” said Schweickart, who is co-founder and past chairman of the B612 Foundation dedicated to protecting Earth from asteroid strikes. Detection numbers are even lower for smaller NEOs between 100 and 300 meters in diameter with only 10% of the estimated population accounted for, while for the smallest ones—like the approximately 50-meter asteroid that airburst over Tunguska, Siberia, in 1908—“we're below 1% of total objects discovered. When it comes to objects that can do serious damage we're nowhere near a full inventory yet,” he added.
NASA NEO Observations Program Executive Manager Lindley Johnson said securing allocated NEO funding is “critical to continuation of our existing survey programs like the radars for instance, and to do sorely needed upgrades for the Arecibo (radio telescope) in particular—that has suffered from a lack of funding over the years.” Johnson added money will also support analysis “to determine what the next generation survey should be.”
Options include new land-based telescope projects like the Atlas (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System) and Large Synoptic Survey Telescope as well as space-based systems. These could include hosted payload-type concepts in which a staring array would be mounted on the “backside of a commercial payload,” scanning as it orbits the Earth. Such schemes are less capable than a dedicated survey telescope, but much more affordable. “We really need to ferret out the best solution,” said Johnson.

Space-Based Solar Power Could Arrive in Ten Years and Create Millions of Jobs, Say Researchers

from: http://www.wfs.org/content/space-based-solar-power-could-arrive-ten-years-and-create-millions-jobs-says-researcher

Space-Based Solar Power Could Arrive in Ten Years and Create Millions of Jobs, Say Researchers

ptucker's picture
A space-based solar power (SSP) system capable of meeting the energy needs of millions of people could be "deployed within a decade using technologies that are today in the laboratory," says John C. Mankins, a former manager of the Advanced Concepts Studies Office of Space Flight for NASA and widely considered one of the world’s leading experts on space-based solar power.
On Monday (November 14th) Mankins took to the podium of the National Press Club in downtown Washington, D.C. to reveal the findings of a new report Space Solar Power: The First International Assessment of Space Solar Power: Opportunities, Issues and Potential Pathways Forward (IAA, 2011).

The U.S. Department of Energy has previously suggested that sending solar-collecting satellites to space would continue to be prohibitively expensive and that less than 1% of global energy use would come from space-based solar projects by 2035.
Mankins says that engineers will be able to demonstrate multi-megawatt power transmission, with an energy cost of $1 to $5 per kilowatt hour, within 10 to 15 years. "It’s something that can be accomplished by this generation of engineers. This initial demonstration could be done without the development of a new reusable launch system."
The report served as a very public endorsement from the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) of Mankins’s longstanding proposal for spaced-based solar power. As previously covered in THE FUTURIST, the Mankins plan calls for
"…Many thousands of small, identical solar-gathering modules [coming] together to form a much larger whole, the same way that thousands of similar ants come together to form colonies and millions of quite similar Web sites and Web servers form the Internet... The logistics of building and launching a type A mini-satellite 9,000 times (then type B, then type C) is less daunting than figuring out how to launch a few extremely complex, independently functioning machines."
The satellites would beam energy to Earth using microwaves. Mankins points out that the energy transfer would be completely safe, harming neither humans nor wildlife that passed beneath them. The energy would be collected on Earth via rectennas that could be composed of a simple mesh, rather than bulky panels, and would have a low impact on the surrounding environment.
"The consensus is that [SSP] is technically achievable. But because of Mankins’s new approach, it appears the model will be economically viable in a much shorter time frame than previously thought possible," said Mark Hopkins, the Senior Vice President of the National Space Society and one of the sponsors for the event.
"The networked approached really suggests that a breakthrough is possible in terms of schedule, and with the modular program a breakthrough in terms of cost," said Mankins. He suggested that a pilot demonstration could be launched for $10 billion dollars, within ten years, and could generate ten megawatts electricity, comparable to small terrestrial solar plants today.
The advantages of space-based solar power over conventional solar designs are efficiency and reliability. Solar power collection in space is seven to ten times more efficient than is collection on Earth, and, of course, harnessing the Sun’s power in space can happen twenty four hours a day with no interruption.
Future space-based solar power projects could lead to jobs for five million people, who would build and launch the satellites, according to the study. "These are high tech jobs. Space based solar power could be more important than the railroads in the 19th Century and automobiles in the 20th," said Hopkins.
Mankins and Hopkins were careful to point out that SSP would not suffice as a replacement for terrestrial solar power programs. But the two could compliment one another. They believe that SSP could comprise up to 5% of the Earth’s future energy consumption. "If it works well we can become net energy exporters," said Hopkins.
Mankins says that because the satellites would use microwaves rather than lasers, they couldn't be used as weapons. But he concedes that there is some geostrategic advantage to being the first county to implement SSP. "This was an international study. My personal belief is the first one to get there realizes the benefits of building the infrastructure and the capability."
Japan has long been a thought leader in this field of research and the list of reviewers of the Mankins report is heavy with Japanese names.
Hopkins points out that there is now growing interest in space-based solar power China, as well.
"The development of a solar power station in space will fundamentally change the way in which people exploit and obtain power," Chinese space technology expert Xiji Wang said at event in August. "Whoever takes the lead in the development and utilization of clean and renewable energy and the space and aviation industry will be the world leader."
Download the paper.
from: http://missoulanews.bigskypress.com/IndyBlog/archives/2011/11/14/extra-extra-in-other-news-online  
Woe Be We
After Charlie Bolden, the administrator of NASA, declared that deflecting a near-earth object (NEO), such as an asteroid or a comet, will be “what keeps the dinosaurs—we are the dinosaurs, by the way—from becoming extinct a second time,” he admitted that the space agency couldn’t afford to tackle that task, even if it wanted to. He explained that the annual federal allocation for “planetary defense” is $5.8 million, which represents a mere 0.03 percent of NASA’s budget and is barely adequate merely to locate NEOs and track their orbits. (The New Yorker)

NASA Administrator: "The NEAs provide the opportunity to send humans beyond the solar orbit of Earth while holding compelling science and planetary defense knowledge-building potential. In addition to possible scientific prospects, missions to NEAs would afford astronauts the experience applicable to deeper-space missions that would eventually contribute to establishing a permanent human presence beyond Earth. There are a few asteroids which could be visited by the SLS and Orion MPCV in the timeframe under consideration. Additional NEA survey data will be required to identify and refine the catalog of potential targets." from: http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=39082

Deflecting Killer Asteroids Away From Earth: How We Could Do It

From: http://www.space.com/13524-deflecting-killer-asteroids-earth-impact-methods.html

Deflecting Killer Asteroids Away From Earth: How We Could Do It

Date: 07 November 2011 Time: 06:53 AM ET

An illustration of how solar sails might help deflect the asteroid Apophis.
CREDIT: Olivier Boisard

A huge asteroid's close approach to Earth tomorrow (Nov. 8) reinforces that we live in a cosmic shooting gallery, and we can't just sit around waiting to get hit again, experts say.
Asteroid 2005 YU55, which is the size of an aircraft carrier, will zip within the moon's orbit tomorrow, but it poses no danger of hitting us for the foreseeable future. Eventually, however, one of its big space rock cousins will barrel straight toward Earth, as asteroids have done millions of times throughout our planet's history.
If we want to avoid going the way of the dinosaurs, which were wiped out by an asteroid strike 65 million years ago, we're going to have to deflect a killer space rock someday, researchers say. Fortunately, we know how to do it.

"We have the capability — physically, technically — to protect the Earth from asteroid impacts," said former astronaut Rusty Schweickart, chairman of the B612 Foundation, a group dedicated to predicting and preventing catastrophic asteroid strikes. "We are now able to very slightly and subtly reshape the solar system in order to enhance human survival."
In fact, we have several different techniques at our disposal to nudge killer asteroids away from Earth. Here's a brief rundown of the possible arrows in our planetary defense quiver. [The 7 Strangest Asteroids in the Solar System ]

The gravity tractor
If researchers detect a potentially dangerous space rock in plenty of time, the best option may be to send a robotic probe out to rendezvous and ride along with it.
The spacecraft's modest gravity would exert a tug on the asteroid as the two cruise through space together. Over months or years, this "gravity tractor" method would pull the asteroid into a different, more benign orbit.
"You can get a very precise change in the orbit for the final part of the deflection using a technology of this kind," Schweickart said in late September, during a presentation at Caltech in Pasadena, Calif., called "Moving an Asteroid."
Humanity has already demonstrated the know-how to pull off such a mission. Multiple probes have met up with faraway asteroids in deep space, including NASA's Dawn spacecraft, which is currently orbiting the huge space rock Vesta.
And in 2005, the Japanese Hayabusa probe even plucked some pieces off the asteroid Itokawa, sending them back to Earth for analysis.
Smash 'em up
We could also be more aggressive with our asteroid rendezvous craft, relying on brute force rather than a gentle gravitational tug. That is, we could simply slam a robotic probe into the threatening space rock to change its orbit.
We know how to do this, too. In 2005, for example, NASA sent an impactor barreling into the comet Tempel 1 to determine the icy object's composition.
The impactor approach would not be as precise as the gravity tractor technique, Schweickart said, but it could still do the job.
There's also the possibility of blowing the asteroid to smithereens with a nuclear weapon. The nuclear option could come into play if the dangerous space rock is too big to knock around with a kinetic impactor,  but it would likely be a weapon of last resort.
For one thing, blasting an asteroid to bits might end up doing more harm than good, said fellow presentation panelist Bill Nye, executive director of the Planetary Society.
"Momentum is conserved," Nye said. "If you blow it up, then the whole giant spray of rocks is coming at the Earth instead of one."
The politics involved in mobilizing use of a nuke could also be a cause for concern, Schweickart said. It will likely be hard enough to convince the world to mount any sort of asteroid-deflection mission in time, and adding nuclear missiles to the equation would make things much stickier.
"The potential use of nuclear explosives for deflection cannot currently be ruled out," Schweickart said. "But it is an extremely low probability that they will be needed."
Close Encounters of the Comet Kind: A Brief History
This image of Comet Tempel 1 was taken by NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft on July 4, 2005, 67 seconds after a probe crashed into the comet.
'Mirror bees' and foil wrap
While we're pretty sure that gravity tractors and kinetic impactor probes would work, researchers are also looking into several other ideas. [Photos: Asteroids in Deep Space]
There's the "mirror bee" concept, for example, which would launch a swarm of small, mirror-bearing spacecraft to a dangerous asteroid. These mini-probes would aim reflected sunlight at one spot on the space rock, heating it up so much that rock is vaporized, creating propulsive jets.
"The reaction of that gas or material being ejected from the asteroid would nudge it off-course," Nye said.
The Planetary Society is helping fund research into mirror bees, Nye said. And while he said the concept isn't yet ready for deployment or demonstration, he stressed that it's not too far off, either.
"Maybe five years," Nye told SPACE.com. "It's not 30 years."
Nye also floated another, more speculative idea. It might be possible to move an asteroid, he said, by wrapping it in reflective foil, like a giant baked potato. Photons from the sun might then nudge the space rock away from Earth, in much the same way they propel spacecraft equipped with solar sails.
"This might work, even if the thing is rotating," Nye said. "OK, make no promises. But it's something to invest in."
Passing the intelligent life test
The biggest key to deflecting dangerous asteroids, researchers say, is detecting them with plenty of lead time to take appropriate action. We'd like to have a least a decade of notice, NASA scientists have said.
It'll take awhile, after all, to mobilize and launch a deflection mission, and for that mission to do its job, especially if we go the gravity tractor route.
We need to make sure we can rise to the challenge when a big, threatening asteroid shows up on our radar, Schweickart and Nye said. Civilization's very survival depends on it.
"If there is a community of intelligent life out in the universe ... those intelligent beings will have already conquered this challenge," Schweickart said. "Our entrance exam to that community of intelligent life is to pass this test."
You can follow SPACE.com senior writer Mike Wall on Twitter: @michaeldwall. Follow SPACE.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

Asteroid Threat Sparks "NEOShield Project" To Assess Earth Defenses: Is This the End of the World?

From: http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/289033/20120128/asteroid-threat-neoshield-end-world-doomsday-collision.htm
By ambrosia sabrina: Subscribe to ambrosia's
January 28, 2012 6:39 AM EST
An asteroid - Asteroid BX34 - and its close encounter with Earth on Friday, as well as the solar storms last week, sparked apocalyptic hysteria across nations and even called for global mitigation measures to be implemented in the wake of an impending doomsday threat.
While it may not be that 2012 is necessarily the end of the world, think-tanks across the world have taken the threat of such earnestly and have launched an international project to assess the threat posed by asteroids or comets, while looking for solutions to protect Earth from such impacts.
According to Space.com, the project "NEOShield" is a European-funded program led by the German Aerospace Center. The project has roped in the finest scientists from universities and industrial partners in Germany, France, the UK, Spain, the U.S. and Russia. The consensus seems to be that the project will take three-and-a-half years.
The scientific side of this will include the analysis of observational data on Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and laboratory experiments in which projectiles are fired at asteroid surface analog materials with different compositions, densities, porosities and structures," Alan Harris, a senior scientist and NEOShield project leader said in a statement. "We need to understand how the momentum transfer from a kinetic impactor to an asteroid depends on the physical characteristics of the asteroid," he added. The kinetic impactor that Harris referred to is a planetary defense device used to deflect NEOs from their impact paths and thereby avoid catastrophic events.
Despite the fact that NEO threats may seem distant events, experts quoted in a BBC report believe the planet's geologic and biologic history have provided substantial evidence of such impacts.
Follow us
A large number of meteoroids enter the Earth's atmosphere every day; amounting to more than a hundred tons of material. However, most of these are quite small and vaporize completely before hitting the surface. Unfortunately, NASA believes a football field-sized object will hit the Earth approximately every 2,000 years, causing significant damage to the areas hit. The most devastating effects, however, are usually caused by objects "large enough to threaten Earth's civilization", the space agency added. These, fortunately, are predicted to come around only once in every few million years.
Scientists across the world are doing their part in preventing asteroid collisions. Nevertheless, popular doomsday prophecies will not go away.
The ancient Mayans, for example, are commonly believed to have predicted the end of the world on Dec. 21, 2012. Other doomsday prophesies such as those of Nostradamus indicate the possibility of a Third World War and a "comet" that suddenly appears out of the sky and strikes the Earth, resulting in devastation. The Biblical apocalypse also points out to an asteroid or meteor-like collision, albeit with no reference to any date.

“Asteroid Next” missions: Proving Grounds for future crewed Mars missions

from: http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2011/12/asteroid-missions-proving-grounds-future-crewed-mars-missions/ 
December 6th, 2011 by Chris Gebhardt As NASA continues to define and plan for the future of human space exploration of the solar system beyond Low Earth Orbit, the Human Space Exploration Community’s Workshop on the GER – in cooperation with NASA – has outlined the potential path the U.S. space agency will follow in the build up to eventual crewed missions to Near Earth Asteroids.
The Basics: Setting the stage and making sure we’re ready:
As has always been the case with NASA, getting humankind to an asteroid will involve a phased approach beginning with utilization of the premiere science laboratory NASA and its international partners have spent the last 13 years constructing in Low Earth Orbit (LEO): the International Space Station.
According to a NASA presentation at the Human Space Exploration Community Workshop on the GER, “Targeted utilization of the ISS to advance capabilities needed for human exploration” is the first step in making the “Asteroid Next” path a reality.
An initial focus on the ISS is a logical step in the process to moving humanity beyond LEO as the science lab provides an excellent platform for continuous learning – in both a technological and human experience sense – for the types of long-duration missions that will be needed to execute a mission to a Near Earth Asteroid (NEA).
However, equally as important as using the ISS will be NASA’s ability to adequately reach and utilize the Space Station – something that will rely on the new commercial development contracts NASA has with certain burgeoning commercial space companies as well as the development of NASA’s new SLS (Space Launch System) rocket.
In fact, Commercial Crew and Commercial Cargo Servicing and Support Systems are listed as the two most immediate and important/decisive factors in making the “Asteroid Next” plan a reality.
But it cannot be overlooked that while commercial contracts, vehicles, and services are deemed significantly important to the “Asteroid Next” philosophy, so too are numerous robotic precursor missions prior to 2020 on the part of the NASA, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), ESA (European Space Agency), CSA (Canadian Space Agency), and Roscosmos (the Russian Federal Space Agency) – some of which are already in flight and some of which have yet to launch.
In fact, these five major space agencies are all on track to complete NEA fly-bys and samplings before the end of the decade, missions that would eventually lead to two robotic precursor missions to two NEAs in 2024 and 2027.
If the development side of the equation does in fact come to fruition (from a vehicle, technology, and precursor standpoint), the “Asteroid Next” presentation demonstrates an ability to launch the first crewed NEA mission by 2028.
Click here for other NEO Articles: http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/tag/neo/
Phase I: ISS utilization and initial capability development/demonstration:
Under this first phase of the plan, which would begin in 2012 and continue through 2019, the development of the technology and knowledge necessary for NEA missions would be created both in orbit on the ISS and on the ground.
For the ground side of development, significant resources would be devoted to the development of the next generation of space vehicles, including the SLS rocket, a new Russian rocket, an Exploration Test Module, and robotic servicing and support systems.
Specifically, the presentation outlines NASA’s SLS rocket, the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), Roscosmos’s Next Generation Space Launch Vehicle, Roscosmos’s Next Generation Spacecraft (“Crew vehicle capable of delivering a crew to exploration destination and back to Earth” – 500mb of Russian documentation available in L2), and a new Cryogenic Propellant Stage (CPS) – an “in-space stage that provides delta V to architecture elements using traditional chemical rocket engines, cryogens, and storables and may include the capability for propellant transfer.”
Moreover, the presentation also outlines the Servicing Support Systems, defined here as “systems and tools to enable crew and robots to service in-space systems and assemble larger capabilities, including extravehicular activity suits.”
Under this plan, the “Mission Scenario: Asteroid Next” presentation notes that “advancing in-space habitation capability for long duration” missions, developing “Subsystem high reliability and commonality and advanced extravehicular activity and robotics capabilities,” as well as developing “long-term storage and management of cryogenic fluids” technologies are all necessary in the coming decade to accomplish a 2028 crewed NEA mission.
Moreover, in the arena of in-space technology development, the presentation specifically notes the Deep Space Habitat, an “in-space habitat with relevant subsystems for the purpose of advancing capabilities and systems requiring access to a deep space environment.”
Also beginning the development process at this time would be the Advanced In-Space Propulsion Stage – a “nontraditional propulsion technology, such as high-power electric and nuclear propulsion” that would eventually be used in place of traditional chemical propulsion to deliver crew and In-Space Destination Systems (“systems [that] have the capabilities that enable humans to effectively complete in-space destination objectives by enabling access”) to NEAs.
This stage of the developmental process would also include “technology demonstrations” on the ground and in orbit from 2012-2017 leading up to the launch of the Exploration Test Module in 2018.
This Exploration Test Module would then be the host of at least three crewed mission in 2020 and 2021 via the SLS and MPCV. These three missions would be designed to fundamentally increase our knowledge of human living outside of Low Earth Orbit and develop our robotic capabilities.
Phase II: Cis-Lunar servicing and deployment:
Following the first stage of the plan, the second phase would see crewed missions to the Exploration Test Module in the initial years of the 2020 decade.
As related by the “Asteroid Next” presentation, these mission would be “In-space habitation for long durations in the appropriate radiation environment” to gain further knowledge and information on “radiation protection and measurement techniques; demonstration of beyond Low Earth Orbit re-entry speeds; subsystem high reliability and commonality [and] repair at the lowest level [while] living without a supply chain” – something which is extremely important for eventual multi-month/year missions away from Earth.
Additional milestones for this phase of “Asteroid Next” include development and activation of “Automated delivery and deployment of systems, long-term storage and management of cryogenic fluids, and simulations of near-Earth asteroid mission operational concepts.”
Moreover, the Exploration Test Module would quickly be replaced by the Deep Space Habitat (DSH) to be launched by the SLS rocket and delivered to the Earth-Moon 1 Lagrange point – which gives the added benefit of practicing operations in a gravitationally null point in the Earth-Moon system.
For the DSH, a total of six crewed mission would be planned. While the missions would be tailored in terms of duration to fit specific mission requirements, opening assessments point to an initial 2023 flight to the DSH lasting 14 days with 4 crew members.
This would be followed by an un-crewed resupply mission to DSH by the SLS rocket in preparation for a second crewed mission the following year. This second crewed mission would also fly with 4 people and last for 30 days. The third mission would be flown a year after the second and consist of a 60-day mission with four crewmembers.
The next year would see a four-person crew staying for 90 days at the DSH before a 180-day mission the following year.
This would all lead up to a full year (365-day) mission to DSH in the sixth year.
Under this plan, six crewed SLS rockets would be needed, as would two cargo SLS rockets and two resupply SLS rockets. The missions would result in 739 days of crewed habitation on the DSH.
However, the option would also exist to execute a myriad of missions. As noted by the “Asteroid Next” presentation, “Multiple options available for crew duration depending on the type and number of cargo launches committed to support resupply for increasing mission duration.”
In all, the option exists to conduct five 30-day missions followed by a 365-day mission (resulting in 515 days of crewed habitation at DSH and two SLS resupply rockets); a 30-day, 90-day, 180-day mission followed by three 365-day missions for a total of 1,395 days of crewed habitation with three SLS resupply rockets and a total of 11 SLS launches; or six straight 365-day missions resulting in 2,190 days of crewed habitation at DSH, four SLS resupply missions, and 12 total SLS rocket launches over six years.
Simultaneous to the crewed missions to DSH would be two robotic precursor missions to the NEAs that would be targeted for the crewed NEA missions.
As noted by the “Asteroid Next” presentation, “Some NEAs are solid, some are an aggregation of particles, and all rotate at various rates. Precursor robotic missions to the eventual human mission targets will allow us to refine destination systems performance that will be required to explore the chosen NEA.”
Under this plan, the robotic precursor mission would arrive between three to five years ahead of the crewed mission so that mission planners, engineers, and scientists could discuss and examine any and all options, system designs, and scientific experiments that would need to be in place for the follow-on crewed mission.
In particular, these robotic precursor missions would be sent to identify precise “orbital position, system type (e.g. binary or ternary), spin rate, debris field, internal structure, near-surface structure and regolith, gravitational field, mineralogical/chemical composition, thermal properties, and radiation environment” – all necessary items to have cataloged before the arrival of humans.
At this point, the stage would be set for a crewed mission to a NEA.
Phase III: Deep Space Exploration:
With Phase III comes fruition.  During this phase of operation, humankind would make its first two crewed trips to NEAs.
Under this part of the “Asteroid Next” philosophy, demonstrations of “in-space habitation capability for long durations and advanced in-space propulsion systems” would be tested – knowledge and technologies that would eventually be used to take humans to Mars.
In addition, a continued focus on “long-term storage and management of cryogenic fluids, automated delivery and deployment of systems, subsystems high reliability and commonality [and] repair at the lowest level [while] living without a supply chain, and demonstration of Mars mission transportation operational concepts” would be had.
Under this plan, the first crewed mission to a NEA would begin in 2028 and conclude around 2030, with the second crewed NEA mission beginning in 2033 and concluding in 2035.
During the missions, the crews would spend approximately seven, 14, or 30 days at the NEA of choice, conducting surface EVA missions to deploy “probes (radar, acoustics, seismometers, etc.), experiments, and planetary defense devices.”
These surface missions would be accomplished with small utility craft while the main “mothership stack” – consisting of the In-Space Enhanced Propulsion unit, the DSH, and the MPCV – remained at a standoff distance from the NEA of approximately 1-2 kilometers.
(Images: L2 Content, NASA)
(NSF and L2 are providing full transition level coverage, available no where else on the internet, from Orion and SLS to ISS and COTS/CRS/CCDEV, to European and Russian vehicles.)
(Click here to join L2: http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/l2/ )

Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev on Planetary Defense

From: http://larouchepac.com/node/22979

Patrushev Speaks on International Planetary Defense Cooperation
Speaking at a press conference on June 8, at the conclusion of the global security forum just held in St. Petersburg, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev stated that the "space threat from asteroids" had been an important topic at the meeting. He called for international cooperation on readiness and potential deflection measures.
According to Russian wire reports, Patrushev said, "We are not be in immediate danger, but such a danger may arise. And we must understand how to eliminate this danger. We need to prepare beforehand. There are doable options for removing the danger. If we work on improving them, especially on an international scale, this will not be out of reach as it would be for just one country, but it can really be done. So we need to do the forecasting of when and how to influence these [space] objects."
This statement confirms what both Patrushev and Vitali Davydov, deputy head of Roscosmos, had stated in Moscow in April, that the subject of this third such international security conference would include, as one of its major subjects of discussion, the necessity of international cooperation for asteroid defense. (Click here for links to the original report on this announcement)
See also:
Update on Defense of Earth
Interview with Vladimir Popovkin
Strategic Defense of Humanity
From: http://planetarydefense.blogspot.com/2012/06/recent-planetary-defense-related.html

Recent Planetary Defense Related Technical Papers

Title: Development of a handbook and an on-line tool on defending Earth against Potentially Hazardous Objects
Author(s): Nahum Melamed, The Aerospace Corporation Received 3 February 2012. Accepted 21 March 2012.
Available online 23 April 2012.
Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actaastro.2012.03.021

Title: Hypervelocity nuclear interceptors for asteroid disruption
Author(s): B. Wie Vance Coffman Endowed Chair Professor, Asteroid Deflection Research Center, Department of Aerospace Engineering, Iowa State University Received 14 February 2012. Accepted 16 April 2012. Available online 4 May 2012.
Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actaastro.2012.04.028

Title: Deflecting earth-threatening asteroids using the solar collector: An improved model
Author(s): Gregory L. Matloff, Physics Department, New York City College of Technology, CUNY Received 22 November 2011. Revised 24 April 2012. Accepted 27 April 2012. Available online 29 May 2012.
Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actaastro.2012.04.028

Title: A comparison between rubble-pile and monolithic targets in impact simulations: Application to asteroid satellites and family size distributions
Author(s): Paula G. Benavideza, Daniel D. Durda, Brian L. Enke, William F. Bottke, David Nesvorn√Ĺ, Derek C. Richardson, Erik Asphaug, William J. Merline Received 29 March 2011. Revised 18 January 2012. Accepted 19 January 2012. Available online 17 February 2012.
Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2012.01.015

Title: Next Gen NEAR: Near Earth Asteroid Human Robotic Precursor Mission Concept
Author(s): Rivkin, Andrew S.; Kirby, Karen; Cheng, Andrew F.; Gold, Robert; Kelly, Daniel; Reed, Cheryl; Abell, Paul; Garvin, James; Landis, Rob Link: NASA Technical Reports Server
Link: PDF

Title: Comparing the Earth impact flux from comets and near-Earth asteroids
Author(s): Donald K. Yeomans, Alan B. Chamberlin, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology Received 20 January 2012. Revised 13 February 2012. Accepted 6 March 2012. Available online 5 April 2012.
Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actaastro.2012.04.028

Title: Finding Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) Destinations for Human Exploration: Implications for Astrobiology
Author(s): Abell, P. A.; Mazanek, D. D.; Barbee, B. W.; Mink, R. G.; Landis, R. R.; Adamo, D. R.; Johnson, L. N.; Yeomans, D. K.; Reeves, D. M.; Larman, K. T.; Drake, B. G.; Friedensen, V. P.
Link: NASA Technical Reports Server
Link: PDF

Title: Human Missions to Near-Earth Asteroids: An Update on NASA's Current Status and Proposed Activities for Small Body Exploration
Author(s): Abell, P. A.; Mazanek, D. D.; Barbee, B. W.; Mink, R. G.; Landis, R. R.; Adamo, D. R.; Johnson, L. N.; Yeomans, D. K.; Reeves, D. M.; Larman, K. T.; Drake, B. G.; Friedensen, V. P.
Link: NASA Technical Reports Server
Link: PDF

Title: Human Mission to Asteroids in the Context of Future Space Exploration Studies
Author(s): P. Messidoro, F. Fenoglio, M. Pasquinelli, and J. Gottlieb, Thales Alenia Space Italia S.p.A.
Link: PDF

From: http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2012-04/how-it-would-work-destroying-incoming-killer-asteroid-nuclear-blast 

How it Would Work: Destroying an Incoming Killer Asteroid With a Nuclear Blast

How It Works 2012
Simulations show how unleashing Earth's destructive arsenal into deep space could save the planet

Earth, and the Near-Earth Objects that Threaten It ESA - P.Carril
One way or another, it’s on everyone’s minds, living somewhere in the back of our collective consciousness. Hollywood knows it, and continues to plumb it for box office numbers. Sci-fi is rife with it. The fossil record shouts warnings across millennia about it. Even the dinosaurs developed a particular, albeit brief, loathing for it. The killer asteroid--the one that we might never even see coming--could end life on this planet and there would be nothing humans could do about it. It creates a kind of helplessness that’s difficult to even think about, and it’s Robert Weaver’s job to think about it all the time.
Weaver, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), doesn’t hunt for killer asteroids, but he does study the ways humans might use their vast nuclear arsenals--designed to wipe each other off the face of the planet--to save the whole of humanity from a catastrophic asteroid impact. Weaver has been running simulations on LANL’s Cielo supercomputer to determine humanity’s capacity to mitigate an impending asteroid threat using a one-megaton nuclear energy source--one roughly 50 times more powerful than the blasts inflicted upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the close of World War II.
There’s more than one way to divert an asteroid of course. With the proper notice, like that afforded us by the asteroid Apophis or 2011 AG5, humans could fly a spacecraft out to intercept an asteroid in deep space. This spacecraft could impact the asteroid to nudge it slightly off course, or it could fly abreast of the threat, acting as a kind of “gravity tractor” whose slight gravitational tug would push it off its collision course over time. It’s even been suggested that a spacecraft could bombard one side of a killer asteroid with a laser, heating it enough to change its orbital characteristics and its path.
That’s if we have time. “From my perspective, the nuclear option is for the surprise asteroid or comet that we haven’t seen before, one that basically comes out of nowhere and we have just a few months to respond to it,” Weaver says. In other words, lacking the time to deploy something more elegant, we can pull out the method of last resort and blast the threat out of existence with the biggest energy source at our disposal. There’s no telling exactly how an asteroid deflection mission would transpire because it’s never been tried before, but scientists like Weaver are hard at work simulating the ins and outs of mitigating of an incoming impactor. It’s knowledge we hope we’ll never have to use, but should we ever have to, this is how it would work.
Weaver conducted a whole parameter study on his simulated asteroid mitigation mission that included all kinds of variables including composition, the size of the constituent rocks making up the asteroid, the porosity of the asteroid, and so on. But he had to start with some fixed parameters. For the 3-D simulation (depicted in the video below) he chose to model the potato-shaped Itokawa asteroid, the same one visited by Japan’s Hayabusa asteroid lander back in 2005.
Weaver’s simulations don’t address the delivery of a nuclear energy source to the asteroid, though there are people out there who do study that very issue. For instance, at the biannual Planetary Defense Conference global partners hash out the thorny politics inherent in hurling the world’s most powerful weapons into space for peaceful purposes.
But we know we can intercept asteroids in deep space. Japan’s Hayabusa probe actually landed on and returned from Itokawa during the last decade, and NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is currently in orbit around the asteroid 4 Vesta in the asteroid belt. We’ve even crashed into a comet before, via NASA’s Deep Impact mission, which hurled a probe into the center of comet 9P/Tempel. If it’s close enough to be a threat, we can rendezvous with it.

Weaver’s simulations have shown something that should boost humanity’s confidence in this endeavor: for an asteroid of the oblong shape and size of Itokawa--roughly 1,640 feet across--there’s no need to drill down into the center of the asteroid to mitigate the threat. “I varied the location of the explosion from the center of the asteroid to the surface of the asteroid both along the long side and the short side,” Weaver says. “The center was by far the most effective because it just blew the whole thing apart. But effective enough was an explosion at the surface of the asteroid, both on the short side and the long side, with the short side being most effective. Once I discovered that, my study focused on surface explosions because it’s just a much simpler mission.”
A surface explosion, known as a contact burst, wouldn’t actually take place right at the surface. Based on what we know about asteroid composition--and there’s still much to be learned--many asteroids are more like huge orbiting piles of smaller rocks than cohesive, solid chunks of hard material. There appears to be a soft dust layer, known as the regolith, that covers asteroids like Itokawa, a layer that could be as much as 30 feet deep. A nuclear energy source rammed into an asteroid could penetrate down into this layer with little trouble, giving it some of the kinetic advantages of being buried within the asteroid. And once the energy source is in direct contact with the asteroid, it’s all pretty much over with.
“The big plume that you see coming out of the top of the asteroid in the simulation is the effect of all that heated rock in the vicinity of the explosion being expelled from the asteroid at high velocities,” Weaver says. “There’s rock-to-rock kinetic energy transfer that happens. These rock-to-rock interactions propagate the energy from the surface all the way through to the opposite end of the asteroid, totally disrupting these rubble piles.”
In other words, the blast is transferred all the way through the asteroid, scattering the once cohesive rubble in every direction. The asteroid threat is no more.
In the simulations, the asteroids essentially come apart, hurling rock outward with the force of the nuclear blast. But the most visible objection to this kind of asteroid mitigation is the idea that by blowing an asteroid apart, we might just create many smaller rocks that could still be big enough to threaten Earth. Moreover, if the rocks aren’t sufficiently scattered the asteroid could potentially recombine under their own gravity, making the nuclear blast a moot point.
But Weaver’s simulations showed something unexpected: the rock expelled from the far side of the asteroid by the blast was kicked out at velocities that surprised even Weaver. Given that the escape velocity--the velocity at which the constituent rocks need to be traveling to escape the asteroid’s own gravity--for an asteroid Itokawa’s size is less than a centimeter per second, the possibility of the asteroid recombining after the blast is virtually non-existent. “In my 2-D calculations I’m seeing velocities imparted to expelled rock on the opposite side of the asteroid of meters per second,” Weaver says. “The escape velocity for an asteroid such as the one I’m looking at is fractions of a centimeter per second. I was calculating velocities of expelled rock at one to ten meters per second, well in excess--by orders of magnitude--of the escape velocity. That was a surprise to me and gave me some confidence that this really is an effective mitigation technique. The asteroid will not recollect, and it will not pose a hazard of a bunch of smaller rocks hitting the Earth.”
This, of course, is according to the calculations.
“All this depends obviously on exactly where the intercept is done, how far away from the Earth it is, how much time we have left--and all of these are unknowns until we discover a threatening asteroid,” Weaver says. “All of these assumptions are assumptions. What I think I’m bringing to the table for the first time are truly validated simulations of these non-uniform, non-circular compositions that will hopefully give policy makers a better understanding of what their options are.”
With those options defined, at least for the scenario of an Itokawa-sized threatening asteroid, Weaver will next turn to an expanding set of parameters simulating larger and larger rocks of varying compositions up to the size of a “dinosaur killer” (about 6.2 miles across). To that end, Weaver and LANL will soon begin a collaboration with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that will pool computational and funding resources that will take this kind of asteroid mitigation exploration to the next level, assessing a range of potential threats. For now, those killer asteroids live solely in the simulations running on LANL’s supercomputers. But that might not always be the case.

Pentagon plans for Alien invasion exist according to military professor

From: http://news.exopoliticsinstitute.org/index.php/21370/ 

Pentagon plans for Alien invasion exist according to military professor

April 10, 2012
Michael E. Salla, Ph.D.
Poster for upcoming movie featuring US Navy responding to alien invasion
Professor Paul Springer from the U.S. Air Command and Staff College was authorized by his employers to discuss military plans to respond to an alien invasion. Springer responded to questions by an Australian Television program exploring possible responses to an alien invasion that aired on Easter Sunday. In the segment titled ““U.S. military making plans for an alien invasion,” he discussed the implications of humanity being confronted by an extraterrestrial threat. Springer’s comments echoed the sentiments by Professor Stephen Hawking in April 2010 that advanced extraterrestrial life is likely to be predatory, and humanity needs to be prepared for contact with hostile off-world visitors. Furthermore, Springer’s comments reveal that a 2006 book titled An Introduction to Planetary Defense: A Study of Modern Warfare Applied to Extra-Terrestrial Invasion, written by a number of defense contractors, may in fact contain many aspects of the Pentagon’s classified plan. Most importantly, Springer’s comments confirm for the first time that the Pentagon has drawn up contingency plans for an extraterrestrial invasion.
In the alien invasion TV segment, Springer was asked: “What do you think would be the alien plan? What would they do first?” He responded:
That really depends on why they are here in the first place. If they are here for the extraction of a specific resource, for example, they might just want to eliminate any resistance that might block them from their objective. If, on the other hand, their goal was actual occupation and conquest, then they would probably have to prioritize anything they perceive as a threat to their own dominance. So, they would probably start by wiping out as many communications networks as possible and eliminating as many weapons that might represent some form of threat either to them, or to the resources they are trying to extract. So they might very well want to counter every nuclear weapon, not because it represented a threat to them, but because it might destroy whatever they’re here to collect.
Significantly, Springer addresses how the Pentagon would view extraterrestrial interference with nuclear weapons. Aliens would interfere with nuclear weapons not because they are dangerous to life here or elsewhere, but because nuclear weapons are a threat to what the aliens wish to collect from Earth. It has been well documented that for 60 years or more, UFOs have been monitoring nuclear weapons facilities, and in some situations have actively interfered with nuclear weapons. Many UFO researchers have interpreted this as a sign that extraterrestrials were trying to warn humanity of the global threat posed by nuclear weapons. Indeed, numerous individuals claiming to have been contacted or abducted by extraterrestrials since the early 1950s have made a similar point. Springer’s comments reveal the contrasting conclusion drawn by the Pentagon in their planning scenario.
Springer is then asked: “Wouldn’t it be a strange situation if humanity had to band together, fighting alongside Russia, or I guess, the Taliban?” He responded:
It would, but keep in mind that many of the greatest civilizations in human history have been formed, basically, to counter a common enemy. When you look at the great world powers of the globe today, you find a lot of them formed because of the fear of a common enemy.
Significantly, this echoes the same sentiment drawn by former President Ronald Reagan at a famous speech at the UN General Assembly in September 1987:
In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside of this world. And yet I ask – is not an alien force already among us?
Reagan’s last question reveals that he did not believe that an alien invasion scenario was something that lay ahead in future decades. It was a contingency humanity had to grapple with in the immediate moment – an extraterrestrial presence was already among us. Global unity was an imperative to deal with all the implications of such a presence! It appears that Reagan was secretly briefed about extraterrestrial life, and some of the threats this posed to humanity. Was he really warning the world about classified alien secrets withheld from the global public?
Not so fast according to reporters such as Alex Jones and Kurt Nimmo. They believe that the alien invasion scenario described by Springer would in fact be a false flag operation using very earthly advanced technologies to simulate an alien invasion: The goal would be to justify the creation of a one world government where more and more civil liberties would be lost – especially for U.S. citizens.
A false flag alien invasion scenario was first revealed by Dr Werner Von Braun, a founder of the US Apollo Space Program, to Carol Rosin shortly before the former’s death in 1977 This gives credence to a possible agenda behind the Pentagon leaking an alien invasion plan. The threat would be contrived, extraterrestrials aren’t real at all. What, however, would be the case if Reagan’s warning was authentic, and extraterrestrials are already here? In such a scenario, there would be many good reasons why Jones and Nimmo are wrong, and greater global governance would be essential in dealing with advanced extraterrestrial life and technology.
Prof Springer’s revelation of classified Pentagon plans to respond to an alien invasion raises many intriguing questions. Most importantly, Springer reveals that the Pentagon acknowledges the importance of thinking through the many national security issues surrounding the possible existence of extraterrestrial life and technology. Whether one agrees with former President Reagan that extraterrestrials are already here and constitute a global threat, or whether the Pentagon plan is merely a ruse for a false flag event to usher in a one world government; in either case, the time for serious study of issues concerning extraterrestrial life has come. The global media and scholarly community need to educate themselves and the public about the many political implications of advanced alien life, evidence that such life is already visiting us, and finally whether extraterrestrials are our friends or foes.
© Copyright 2012. Michael E. Salla. Exopolitics.org
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Michio Kaku on WISE

Near-Miss Asteroids of 2012 and Beyond

Near-Miss Asteroids of 2012 and Beyond

asteroid near miss
In June of 2011, an asteroid named 2011 MD – measuring the size of a city block – shot past the earth within only 11,000 miles of the Earth’s atmosphere – an asteroid near-miss that provided amateur astronomers with a stellar view as it emitted a bright light from space. (1)
At 6:28 p.m. on a Tuesday in November of 2011, Asteroid 2005 YU55 – measuring about a quarter mile in diameter – screamed past Earth just inside the Moon’s orbit, coming within 201,700 miles of Earth. (3)
At 4:00 p.m. on January 27th, a giant chunk of space rock measuring 36 feet wide, named 2012 BX34 by the folks that name such near-earth objects, shot past Earth, coming within just 37,000 miles of the planet – only a fifth of the distance from the Earth to the moon. The encounter made it into the record books as one of the closest such an object has come to earth since 2011 MD in June of that year. (2)
On February 22nd of 2012, a team of amateur astronomers discovered yet another asteroid – which astronomers have since named 2012 DA14 – headed towards Earth on a path that will put it closer to the surface of the planet than many of the satellites currently circling the planet. The asteroid, measuring about 50 meters, is estimated to pass Earth at about 24,000 km on February 15th, 2013. (4)
These are only a few examples of the regular threat that planet Earth faces from the incoming objects from space. According to NASA scientists, such encounters with massive pieces of hurtling space rock is not at all uncommon. (5)

Watching for Asteroid Near Miss

Lindley Johnson, the program executive of the Near-Earth Object program told MSNBC that with over 50 million unknown asteroids, objects that measure only 33 feet could pass between the Earth and the moon on a regular basis without ever being detected or causing harm.
"Such an asteroid might hit Earth's atmosphere once every 10 years, but because of its small size, it would pose no substantial threat to the people or property below... They would certainly break up in Earth's atmosphere, or we might get some meteorites on the ground."
This explains why most scientists don't bother tracking or monitoring the path of such small asteroids, nor do most of these encounters ever really make the news.
However, as far as the larger incoming asteroids are concerned, in July of 2010, NASA's Ad-Hoc Task Force on Planetary Defense called for the establishment of a new "asteroid-watching office" which would monitor space for dangerous incoming asteroids, and assist with coming up with ideas for deflecting those threatening near-Earth objects (NEOs).
Europe isn't waiting for U.S. scientists to save the planet. The European Space Agency (ESA) has established a Space Situational Awareness (SSA) Preparatory Programme which utilizes facilities like the La Sagra Sky Survey to gather information about the hazards that might impact planet Earth.
Detlef Koschny, a scientist at the ESA's SSA office, told reporters at Science Daily that the SSA is actively cataloging all threats.
"We are developing a system of automated optical telescopes that can detect asteroids just like this one, with the goal of being able to spot them at least three weeks before closest approach to Earth."

NASA Monitoring Near-Earth Objects

If you are interested in monitoring both recent and upcoming asteroid near-miss events, you can do so right at NASA's Near Earth Object Program web page.
asteroid near miss
The page provides updated charts with all named asteroids, the "close approach date", and its "miss distance" from Earth in AU units. Each "AU" is the equivalent of 150 million kilometers from Earth.
The recent asteroid near miss objects listed include 10 objects in the first week of April alone, with one object - 2012 FA57 - coming within 435,000 km from Earth.
Upcoming NRO's include about 38 objects with a path classified as a "close approach", and with sizes ranging all the way up to 2.3 kilometers across.
So what happens if a large asteroid is calculated as being on a collision course for Earth?
For a while, scientists thought that 2004 MN4 - a 320 meter wide asteroid - was on a collision path for Earth on Friday the 13th of April, 2029. Subsequent observations placed it within 18,600 miles above the surface of the planet - unnervingly close, but only another near-miss.
asteroid near miss

Watching for Asteroid Near Miss Threats

As we've previously reported, scientists are keeping an eye on 2011 AG5 - a 460 foot wide space rock that might come close enough to Earth to require a plan to deflect the object before it can cause any damage. The estimated impact if it hits, would be in 2040 - but many astronomers suspect more accurate calculations after additional observations will correct the path to one that misses Earth.
The asteroid with the strongest possibility of impacting Earth is 1999 RQ36, measuring 1,800 feet wide, which has a 1-in-1000 chance of striking Earth on September 24th, 2182. Scientists have said that the only way to deflect such an object would be to initiate deflection maneuvers over 100 years before the object's impact date.
How could humanity deflect such a fated impact?
Most scientists and experts agree that nuclear weapons would be humanities only effective hope of making a difference in the path of an incoming object. David Dearborn of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory provided the results of his computer modeling of such nuclear detonation impacts on different types of asteroids at the semiannual meeting of the American Astronomical Society. He showed how nuclear detonations could successfully change the path of asteroids over a long distance with a side-impact explosion, or break apart asteroids with a direct-hit explosion.
While it's great that computer models show that Earth may have a chance to defend itself from the sort of extinction-causing impact that the dinosaurs faced, let's hope that humanity doesn't have to test that theory for a very long time.

Seeking Answers From Asteroids

From: http://science.dodlive.mil/tag/planetary-defense/

You know what I love about NASA?  The fact that when they say, “Hey, we should go to an asteroid and collect a sample of it to analyze in the hopes of better understanding our universe” that they mean it.
In this case, researchers are hoping to understand some of life’s more profound mysteries by way of a very special (and dramatically named) mission.
The Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer – or OSIRIS-REx – mission will be the first of its kind to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth.  What some might call unprecedented.
And okay yes, I know that this isn’t the first time we’ve gone mining for answers from other celestial bodies.  The Stardust mission did this in 2006 when it brought back samples from a comet, but that was a small sample from a comet that was super-heated when it hit the collider.
But this is something much different.  This is something that could unlock the secrets of life itself.
This near-Earth asteroid, affectionately referred to as asteroid (101955) 1999RQ36 (must be a family name) will conduct a 500 day encounter that will create maps and studies of the asteroid, collect up to 2kg of volatile-rich regolith, which is essentially the asteroid’s sugar coating.
Asteroids are leftovers formed from the cloud of gas and dust – the solar nebula – that collapsed to form our Sun and the planets about 4.5 billion years ago.  As such, they contain the original material from the solar nebula, which can tell us about the conditions of our solar system’s origins.
OSIRIS-REx is going on a mission to collect samples about our solar system’s birth, basically.

10 August 2012

Is Space-Based Solar Power realistic?

From: http://americansecurityproject.org/blog/2012/is-space-based-solar-power-realistic/
Is Space-Based Solar Power realistic?
posted by Nicholas Cunningham on August 9, 2012 at 10:44 am
The solar industry is making great strides in bringing down costs. As manufacturing capacity has ramped up in the past few years, scale has produced efficiency gains, bringing down prices for consumers.
However, there is one critical problem with solar – the sun is not always shining. This means that the capacity factor – the amount of time that the solar panel is producing energy relative to the total theoretical amount according to its nameplate capacity – only reaches about 20%. While energy storage could smooth out fluctuations, the variability remains a problem.
An interesting article in Strategic Studies Quarterly by Peter Garretson, Lt.Col., USAF, explores one possible route around the pesky problem of the sun not shining all the time – space-based solar power (SBSP).  Under this approach, huge arrays of solar panels would be put into space, and “beam” the energy down to earth. The panels would be bombarded by solar energy without interruption (there is no nighttime in space), and the solar radiation would be 36% stronger to boot. That energy could then provide solar energy 24 hours a day on Earth.
The solar “satellites” could also serve markets that span vast distances. For instance, Garretson says, “a single satellite south of Baja California could service markets across most of North and South America; a satellite over the Indian Ocean could service markets as far apart as Africa and Indonesia, and from Diego Garcia to as far north as Russia.” This is SBSP’s ‘killer app’: it can provide on-demand energy to anywhere in the world. There are obvious military applications for this – imagine forward-deployed bases that did not require resupply routes because they were powered by energy beamed down from space.
Despite the promise, at first blush SBSP would appear to be an unimaginable engineering feat. Indeed it sounds like science-fiction. A “multi-gigawatt” solar system would need to be several kilometers in surface area, requiring hundreds of space launches to get the material into space. To put that into context, the U.S. only launched only 18 rockets into space last year.
Garretson acknowledges the criticism, pointing to the fact that critics say solar has yet to become competitive on Earth, so how could installing thousands of solar panels in space come remotely close to being cost-effective?
Garretson asserts that SBSP could also meet several strategic objectives already laid out by the United States. For example, building SBSP would necessarily mean the U.S. would have to make significant leaps in space-related technologies. Also, building a solar industry in space would also provide the U.S. with the opportunity to strengthen stability in space, provide commercial opportunities, and train a generation of scientists and engineers.
Ultimately, whether or not we pursue space-based solar power comes down to the criticism that Garretson believes is most convincing. That is the question of opportunity costs. Using scarce resources on SBSP means that less is available for other important areas, like education, national defense, or healthcare. More directly, SBSP will be competing with other energy technologies, and since SBSP’s time horizon is decades away, it will be difficult to justify large-scale investments.
ASP has explored SBSP in the past. Last November, ASP hosted John Mankins, President of Artemis Innovation Management Solutions LLC, who gave a presentation on the importance of SBSP. As private companies begin lining up to take advantage of business opportunities in space exploration, SBSP could be more realistic than many believe. As ASP Senior Fellow Andrew Holland noted in a blog post last November, it is especially important for the future of SBSP that private companies get involved because cash-strapped governments will probably not foot the bill. If there is money to be made, SBSP may be best left to the private sector.
To read more about space-based solar power, check out ASP’s work on it by clicking here
From: http://americansecurityproject.org/issues/climate-energy-and-security/energy/future-investment/space-based-solar-power/

Space Based Solar

It is estimated that a solar power station in orbit could harness five times the solar energy captured by stations on the ground

Space Based Solar Power (SBSP) uses solar panels in space (specifically in an equatorial Geosynchronous Earth Orbit) to beaming energy to earth using harmless microwaves.
The concept was first proposed by US space expert Peter Glaser in 1968. Since then, major US reports have been published in 1997 and 2007 that show the viability of SBSP. The National Space Society has a library of the reports that have been done on this issue.
It is estimated that a solar power station in orbit could harness five times the solar energy captured by stations on the ground because of atmospheric interference and the fact that satellites in GEO do not pass into night. A satellite in Geosynchronous orbit receives 5-15 times as much solar energy per year as any place on earth.
SBSP relies on three key technologies: solar photovoltaic cells to create electricity from sunlight, microwaves to beam the energy to earth, and rocket technology.
These technologies exist today: solar cells are becoming common, the technology to beam energy to earth is essentially the same as the radars in the nose of a fighter plane, and we have been launching satellites for over 50 years.

Read about the ASP-Hosted Event on SBSP in November, 2011

There are costs, and they are currently significant. The cost of launching satellites is too high to be competitive. The reason for that cost disparity is that America’s launch systems (rockets) are used so seldom that we are unable to achieve the economies of scale that would inevitably result from a greater demand for launch vehicles.
This system uses technology that already exists. PG&E, the California-based utility, has entered into a deal to purchase electricity from a startup – Solaren – that will harvest energy from space.
JapanChina, India, and Russia are taking preparing space-based solar programs. India – who has begun a significant investment into a ‘solar mission’ – has expressed interest in partnering with the United States on a SBSP program.
SBSP could be a future source of baseload power, but for now its major advantage is that it can provide energy on demand anywhere in the world. Remote power should be an obvious benefit to a military looking to power a base in a remote location.
Other potential customers would be remote energy exploration – like shale or Arctic exploration – that is far from any electric grid.
A power plant in orbit would be an important way to change our paradigm in space from the choice that NASA faces of either scientific research or human exploration.
SBSP needs start-up capital, but ultimately, this may be something that is better handled by the private sector than NASA. There is money to be made, and the company that proves it will have a significant advantage.