30 June 2013

Russians want 'Satan' missile shield to save us from asteroids

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2013/06/24/russians-want-satan-missile-shield-to-save-us-from-asteroids/#ixzz2XlFEguHY

An old ballistic missile system should be modified to defend Earth from asteroids, a Russian scientist says, citing a major explosion over the Urals earlier this year.
The Soviet-era SS-18 "Satan" heavy intercontinental ballistic missiles are ideal for conversion into a rapid-reaction anti-asteroid system, said senior rocket researcher Sabit Saitgarayev over the weekend.
Saitgarayev of the State Rocket Design Center pointed to the destructive power of the meteor which burst over the Russian Ural Mountains on February 15. The sonic boom of the airburst blew out windows and damaged thousands of buildings around the city of Chelyabinsk.
About 1,200 people were injured. Some 50 were hospitalized.
NASA believed the space rock to have been some 15 meters in diameter.
Saitgarayev said the old 1960s-era Soviet "Satan" missiles were ideally suited to such an interception role as they could be held ready for launch for up to 10 years.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2013/06/24/russians-want-satan-missile-shield-to-save-us-from-asteroids/#ixzz2XlFPpOdK

AN OLD ballistic missile system should be modified to defend Earth from asteroids, a Russian scientist says, citing a major explosion over the Urals earlier this year.
The Soviet-era SS-18 "Satan" heavy intercontinental ballistic missiles were ideal for conversion into a rapid-reaction anti-asteroid system, said senior rocket researcher Sabit Saitgarayev at the weekend.
Mr Saitgarayev, of the State Rocket Design Centre, pointed to the destructive power of the meteor which burst over the Russian Ural Mountains on February 15. The sonic boom of the airburst blew out windows and damaged thousands of buildings around the city of Chelyabinsk.
About 1200 people were injured. Some 50 were hospitalised.
NASA believed the space rock to have been some 15 metres in diameter.
Mr Saitgarayev said the old 1960s-era Soviet "Satan" missiles were ideally suited to such an interception role as they could be held ready for launch for up to 10 years.

Source: Supplied
"Carrier rockets created on the basis of intercontinental ballistic missiles like (Satan), which use standard liquid fuel based on hydrazine, are well-suited for fighting suddenly discovered small objects," he said.
"They can stay in the condition of their readiness for launch for ten and more years, after some re-equipping."
This would enable "Satan" to be launched against an inbound asteroid with only 20 minutes warning.
Most modern missile systems need several days to fuel, and this is usually done before a scheduled launch.
Saitgarayev said giving the "Satan" an upgrade including a third stage booster would enable it to target - and destroy - asteroids some five to six hours before they would strike the Earth.

Read more: http://www.news.com.au/technology/sci-tech/old-8216satan8217-ballistic-missiles-should-be-converted-into-an-antiasteroid-defence-system-says-russian-scientist/story-fn5fsgyc-1226668703183#ixzz2XlFfiYws

Planetary Resources Calls on Citizens of Earth to Aid in Planetary Defense: Company Announces New Crowdfunding Goal to Create "Asteroid Zoo" for Public to Search for Dangerous Near-Earth Asteroids

From: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/planetary-resources-calls-on-citizens-of-earth-to-aid-in-planetary-defense-213357051.html

BELLEVUE, Wash., June 27, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Planetary Resources, the asteroid mining company, has announced a collaboration with Zooniverse that will empower citizen scientists to aid in the search for dangerous near Earth asteroids (NEAs) and support planetary defense.
Planetary Resources is in the final stretch of its Kickstarter campaign, ARKYD – the world's first crowdfunded space telescope for the public, which has generated nearly 15,000 supporters and US$1.2M in pledges. If pledges reach US$1.7 million in the three remaining days of the campaign, Planetary Resources and Zooniverse will create Asteroid Zoo, a program to allow students, citizen scientists and space enthusiasts to find potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) at home and help train computers to better find them in the future.
Visit Planetary Resources' Kickstarter Page to Help Reach this Goal: http://bit.ly/ARKYD-100
"Planetary Resources values the power of the connected mind; when working together, we can accomplish much more than any of us can do alone," said Chris Lewicki, President and Chief Engineer, Planetary Resources, Inc. "We're creating this program to harness the public's interest in space and asteroid detection, while providing a very real benefit to our planet."
Chris Lintott, astronomer at the University of Oxford and Zooniverse Principal Investigator said, "Zooniverse volunteers have already inspected more than a million galaxies, discovered planets and kept an eye on solar storms. We're looking forward to working with Planetary Resources to make sure citizen scientists everywhere can make a real contribution to spotting asteroids, too."
It's been 66 million years since scientists believe a 10-kilometer asteroid slammed into the Earth, leading to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Today, there are approximately 620,000 objects that are actively tracked in our Solar System, which represents merely one percent of the 60 million asteroids estimated to orbit the Sun. The NEA population of 1 km+ asteroids is approximately 860, over 90 percent of which are known and 155 of which might be described as extinction-level/dinosaur-killing PHAs. It is currently estimated that less than one percent of smaller asteroids (less than 100m) have been found. None of these currently pose a threat to Earth, and while many of these asteroids are small, they are capable of regional disaster, such as massive damage to a metro city.
Modeled after Zooniverse's popular Galaxy Zoo and other astronomy projects, Asteroid Zoo will allow the public to search through terabytes of data collected by Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) for undiscovered asteroids in a fun, game-like process from their personal computers. The public's findings will be used by scientists to develop advanced asteroid-searching technology for telescopes on Earth and in space, including the ARKYD. Of all the asteroids ever discovered, 93 percent were found in the last 15 years and nearly half of the near-Earth asteroids were discovered by CSS.
Eric Christensen, Principal Investigator for the University of Arizona's Catalina Sky Survey stated, "We're excited to open our archive of more than three-million images to citizen scientists around the world, and look forward to seeing what surprises are hiding in the data set. The results of this effort will provide invaluable feedback that we can use to make CSS a better survey."
Defending our planet from PHAs is also a top priority for NASA, which recently announced a new grand challenge of "finding all asteroid threats to human populations and knowing what to do about them."
About Planetary Resources
Planetary Resources, Inc. was founded in 2009 by Eric Anderson and Dr. Peter H. Diamandis. Our vision is to establish a new paradigm for resource utilization that will bring the Solar System within humanity's economic sphere of influence. The company will conduct low-cost robotic space exploration beginning with the Arkyd Series of space missions that will identify the most commercially viable near-Earth asteroids. These initial missions will assist the company in enabling the retrieval of raw materials from these select asteroids, including water, precious metals and more.
Planetary Resources is financed by industry-launching visionaries, three of whom include Google's CEO Larry Page & Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt; and Ross Perot, Jr., Chairman of Hillwood and The Perot Group; who are committed to expanding the world's resource base so humanity can continue to grow and prosper for centuries to come. Some of the company's partners and advisors include the Bechtel Corporation; film maker and explorer James Cameron; former Chief of Staff, United States Air Force General T. Michael Moseley (Ret.); and Sara Seager, Ph.D., Professor of Planetary Science and Physics at MIT. Members of the company's technical staff have worked on every recent U.S. Mars lander including Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity, and include other key non-aerospace and safety-critical disciplines. For more information, please visit www.planetaryresources.com.
Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and YouTube for all the latest updates!
SOURCE Planetary Resources


Asteroid 1998 QE2 flies past Eart

From: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22736709

An asteroid that measures nearly 2.7km (1.7 miles) across has flown past the Earth.

The space rock, which is called 1998 QE2, is so large that it is orbited by its own moon.

It made its closest approach to our planet at 20:59 GMT (21:59 BST), but scientists had said there would be no chance it would hit.

Instead it kept a safe distance - at closest, about 5,800,000 km (3,600,000 miles).

That is about 200 times more distant than the asteroid "near-miss" that occurred in February - but Friday's passing space rock is more than 50,000 times larger.

Prof Alan Fitzsimmons, an astronomer at Queen's University Belfast, said: "It's a big one. And there are very few of these objects known - there are probably only about 600 or so of this size or larger in near-Earth space.

"And importantly, if something this size did hit us one day in the future, it is extremely likely it would cause global environmental devastation, so it is important to try and understand these objects."

Dark visitor
This fly-by gave astronomers the chance to study the rocky mass in detail.

Using radar telescopes, they were due to record a series of high-resolution images.

They want to find out what it is made of, and exactly where in the Solar System it came from.

Prof Fitzsimmons said: "We already know from the radar measurements, coupled with its brightness, that it appears to be a relatively dark asteroid - that it's come from the outer part of the asteroid belt."

Early analysis has already revealed that the asteroid has its own moon: it is being orbited by another smaller piece of rock that is about 600m (2000ft) across.

About 15% of asteroids that are large are "binary" systems like this.

This celestial event was not visible to the naked eye, but space enthusiasts with even a modest telescope might be able to witness the pass.

After this, asteroid 1998 QE2 will hurtle back out into deep space; Friday's visit will be its closest approach for at least two centuries.

Researchers are becoming increasingly interested in potential hazards in space.

So far they have counted more than 9,000 near-Earth asteroids, and they spot another 800 new space rocks on average each year.

NASA Seeks Private-Sector Posse to Hunt Asteroids

From: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-06-18/nasa-seeks-private-sector-posse-to-hunt-asteroids

Forget sentient glasses and self-driving cars, “asteroid transportation” may be the hottest thing in engineering.

NASA summoned captains of industry to Washington this morning to pitch its plan to harness earthbound asteroids with spacecraft. The briefing, along with a request for information from potential private-sector partners, is part of the government’s “enhanced focus on planetary defense.” In other words, the government needs help saving the world. NASA hopes to be able to snare a small asteroid by 2025. In addition to an Armageddon-style rendezvous, the agency aims to double its capacity to spot potentially hazardous objects zipping through space, or in NASA terminology: “near-earth objects.”

At any given time there are several dozen asteroids and comets for which “future earth impact cannot be ruled out,” according to the space agency. (To induce a light existential crisis, feel free to check the agency’s list of rogue space rocks.) “The average person is oblivious to the threat,” NASA chief Charles Bolden told Bloomberg News today. “Unlike other natural disasters, we can avert this. It allows us to avoid becoming like the dinosaurs.”

NASA already has its eyes on three asteroids—each about 10 meters wide—that are likely candidates for redirection. In theory, NASA and its private-sector partners would use solar-powered spacecraft to drag the asteroids away from earth and into orbit with the moon. Saving the planet aside, there’s also some money in it for potential partners. Of NASA’s $18 billion proposed budget for 2014, it hopes to set aside $105 million for asteroid goaltending.

NASA spokesman Dwayne Brown said today’s meeting was “packed.” Even though the space agency says it didn’t have a sign-in sheet to collect names at today’s event, several private-sector companies are already working on relevant space products, often in concert with NASA. Here’s a look:

B612 Foundation: A Silicon Valley-based nonprofit planning to launch a space telescope by July 2018 to find and track threatening asteroids.

Blue Origin: A Washington-based company focused on building reusable rockets and spacecraft designed to both take off and land vertically.

Boeing (BA): The aeronautics giant already has an agreement to help NASA with commercial space flight, and its Houston-based space exploration unit has more than 3,000 employees.

Google (GOOG): The tech giant, led by known space enthusiasts, has its engineers mapping planets and is offering $20 million to any group that can land a robot on the moon.

Moon Express: A Bay Area aerospace startup that designs lunar landers in hopes of one day mining the moon.

Planetary Resources: A startup backed by Google founders that hopes to mine asteroids for precious metals.

Paragon Space Development: A Tucson (Ariz.)-based company that works on NASA life-support systems.

Sierra Nevada: A Nevada-based NASA partner specializing in high-tech manufacturing and electronics.

Space Exploration Technologies: Founded by Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk, SpaceX is already shooting supplies to the International Space Station.

Virgin Galactic: Richard Branson’s space tourism company, which is already selling
tickets for $250,000 a seat.

White House, NASA want help hunting asteroids

From: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/white-house-nasa-want-help-hunting-asteroids/2013/06/17/8de0fdcc-d765-11e2-a9f2-42ee3912ae0e_story.html

The White House and NASA on Tuesday will ask the public for help finding asteroids that potentially could slam into the Earth with catastrophic consequences.

Citing planetary defense, the administration has decided that the search for killer rocks in space should be the latest in a series of “Grand Challenges,” in which the government sets an ambitious goal, helps create public-private partnerships and sometimes offers prize money for innovative ideas.

Asteroids, comets, meteors and the movies: Asteroids are a popular go-to in the disaster and sci-fi movie genre. Here’s a look at some of the most memorable ones.

“This is really a call to action to find all asteroid threats to human populations and know what to do about them,” NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said Monday. She said the asteroid hunt would help prove that “we’re smarter than the dinosaurs.”

There is a second, overlapping agenda at work here: The NASA human spaceflight program needs to find a target rock for what is now being called the Asteroid Redirect Mission (formerly the Asteroid Retrieval Mission), or ARM.

The proposed mission, which is early in the planning stages, would send astronauts to visit an asteroid that had been redirected into a high lunar orbit. But first a robotic spacecraft would have to rendezvous with the asteroid and capture it. And even before that, scientists would have to find the right asteroid.

The target rock has to be moving at a leisurely pace relative to the Earth, and ideally would come close to the Earth-moon system sometime in the early 2020s. At present, NASA has a short list of possible targets, but all need further scrutiny to see if they have the size, shape, spin rate and composition that the asteroid mission would require.

Two recent feasibility studies used as their reference a rock discovered in 2009, but NASA scientists aren’t sure that it will meet the mission requirements. For one thing, it might turn out to be too small. They plan to study it this fall with the Spitzer Space Telescope.

But NASA scientists are clearly eager to speed up the rate of discovery of small asteroids, and thus expand the pool of candidate rocks for the ARM mission.

The Earth coexists with a swarm of asteroids of varying sizes. Thanks to a number of asteroid searches in the past 15 years, some funded by NASA, about 95 percent of the near-Earth objects (NEOs) larger than 1 kilometer (about three-fifths of a mile) in diameter have already been detected, and their trajectories calculated. None poses a significant threat of striking the Earth in the foreseeable future.

The science is clear: Cat­astrophic impacts, such as the one implicated in the extinction of the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago, are very rare, and no one needs to panic about killer rocks.

But as one goes down the size scale, these objects become more numerous and harder to detect. Congress in 2005 charged NASA with finding all the asteroids greater than 140 meters (459 feet) in diameter. Asteroids that size are generally regarded as large enough to take out a city.

According to NASA, there are also probably about 25,000 near-Earth asteroids that are 100 meters (328 feet) or larger. Only 25 percent of those have been detected, many through NASA’s Near Earth Object Program. The administration is asking Congress to double the budget for asteroid detection, to $40 million, Garver said.

But the Grand Challenge would elicit help from academics, international partners and backyard astronomers. The search for NEOs took on greater urgency on Feb. 15, when, on the very day that a previously detected asteroid was about to make a close pass of the Earth, an unknown 50-foot-diameter rock came out of the glare of the sun and fireballed through the atmosphere above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.

The asteroid’s disintegration caused a shock wave that shattered windows and caused hundreds of injuries and major property damage. It was the first recorded instance of an asteroid causing human casualties. (In 1908 an asteroid exploded over Siberia and flattened trees in a vast, unpopulated area.)

“Even though these smaller asteroids don’t pose a threat to human civilization, they can still cause major damages and casualties on a regional level,” said Tom Kalil, deputy director for technology and innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The administration’s Grand Challenges include efforts to understand the human brain and cure brain disorders, make solar energy cost-competitive by the decade’s end, and make electric cars as affordable as gasoline-powered vehicles.

KinetX Aerospace Joins Russian National Research University Higher School of Economics to Research Planetary Defense Joint efforts will help track potentially dangerous asteroids and explore other interplanetary space projects

From: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/kinetx-aerospace-joins-russian-national-research-university-higher-school-of-economics-to-research-planetary-defense-2013-06-17

TEMPE, Ariz., Jun 17, 2013 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- KinetX Aerospace and the world-renowned Russian National Research University Higher School of Economics (NRU HSE) are teaming on research efforts to detect and deflect potentially harmful asteroids from colliding with Earth. The Chelyabinsk asteroid event in Russia earlier this year highlighted the destructive power of smaller asteroids (it was only 17 meters across) that are not currently tracked.

A recently signed Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) solidifies a new phase of the ongoing relationship between KinetX and NRU HSE and the success these organizations achieved over the past year on a MegaGrant contract.

The initial focus of the joint team under this MOC was planetary defense. The KinetX / NRU HSE team presented initial approaches to tracking potentially dangerous asteroids not currently being tracked as well as how the risk might be mitigated at the International Academy of Astronautics Conference, "Gathering for Impact!", held in April in Flagstaff, Ariz.

Further work outlined in the MOC includes interplanetary space projects that advance space education, international space missions and commercial ventures.

The initial MegaGrant contract from the Russian Ministry of Education and Science, teaming with the Moscow State Institute of Electronics and Mathematics (technical university) (MIEM; now merged with NRU HSE), was won by Dr. David Dunham of KinetX in October 2011. Under the MegaGrant, the teams researched space missions to detect and classify asteroids and comets passing near the Earth. This grant also covered work to develop the means to modify orbits of space objects to prevent collisions with our planet, as well as to develop optimal trajectories to extend human exploration to interplanetary destinations.

"The next steps in space will be done via international and commercial cooperation, not by individual countries trying to shoulder the entire expense," said Dr. Dunham. "Relationships like ours that team the research prowess of NRU HSE with the deep space exploration experience KinetX personnel have in landing a spacecraft on an asteroid, and soon with OSIRIS-REx, are a solid foundation for mutually beneficial advancements."

"This MOC unites us in a common goal of developing international space missions between Russia and the US, and promoting the exploration of commercial space ideas and projects," said Professor Vladimir Kulagin. "Our focus on science transcends geopolitical concerns as we work together to design business models and creative solutions that leverage the combined talent and knowledge of our teams for the good of mankind."

The MOC will provide an opportunity for NRU HSE to utilize the newly-developed Laboratory of Space Research, Technologies, Systems and Processes that was started during the execution of the MegaGrant contract. This laboratory focus is on the development of world-class space research and to provide students and post-graduates an opportunity to develop and work on actual space missions.

The MOC requires the same strict adherence to all International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) which the KinetX / NRU HSE team have followed during MegaGrant contract, operating under a Technical Assistance Agreement that was approved by the U.S. State Department.

For more information on KinetX Aerospace's Systems Engineering solutions for aerospace, defense, and communications systems or its Space Navigation and Flight Dynamics (SNAFD) team that specializes in the navigation of earth orbiting and deep space missions, please visit: www.kinetx.com or call us at 480.829.6600.

About National Research University Higher School Of Economics

For more information about NRU HSE, please visit http://www.hse.ru/en/. For information about the Laboratory of Space Research please visit http://astro.miem.hse.ru/en/.

About KinetX Aerospace

KinetX Aerospace is an innovative engineering, technology and business consulting firm providing complete systems solutions for commercial and government markets. Specializing in aerospace systems, its engineers have an established track record of problem solving utilizing techniques that border on the forefront of technology. With a well-earned reputation for applying and integrating business applications, KinetX Aerospace has consistently increased client revenue, reduced costs and accelerated timelines. KinetX Aerospace is AS9100 REV. C, ISO9001:2008 and CMMI Level 3 certified. KinetX Aerospace also maintains a DCAA compliant cost accounting system.

KinetX Aerospace is the first commercial entity to provide spacecraft navigation services for NASA interplanetary missions and is currently providing similar mission design and navigation services for three NASA missions: the MESSENGER mission that is currently orbiting the planet Mercury, the New Horizons mission that is on its way to fly past Pluto in 2015, and the newly selected OSIRIS-REx mission that will return to Earth a sample from asteroid 1999 RQ36.

KinetX Aerospace is a privately held company headquartered in Tempe, Ariz., with additional offices in Simi Valley, Calif., and other employees located in Colorado, Maryland, and Virginia. It continues to build on the original goal of being a flexible, innovative company focused on what it does best - solving engineering challenges.


SOURCE: KinetX Aerospace

Russians Propose Space Billiards for Planetary Defense

From: http://en.ria.ru/analysis/20130531/181439126/Russians-Propose-Space-Billiards-for-Planetary-Defense.html

MOSCOW, May 31 (Alexey Eremenko, RIA Novosti) – The meteorite that blew up over Russia’s Urals in mid-February, leaving 1,500 injured, came as a striking reminder of how vulnerable we are on our small, blue planet. It was suddenly palpably clear that we have no way of preventing celestial bodies from slamming into Earth.

The way out just might be to hit dangerous asteroids with other asteroids, Russian scientists say.

Several near-Earth asteroids can be towed into the vicinity of the planet to serve as a cache of celestial projectiles against incoming space threats, said Natan Eismont of the Space Research Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences.

“I was skeptical about it myself, until we actually tried to do computer modeling of the situation,” Eismont, one of the project’s authors, told RIA Novosti in a recent interview.

The orbiting asteroids can be “lined up” so that one passes 100,000 to 200,000 kilometers from Earth every few weeks or months, ready to be used against non-catalogued and hazardous asteroids, recent research by the Space Research Institute and the Higher School of Economics in Moscow suggests.

There are currently more than 9,000 near-Earth asteroids, or asteroids whose orbits bring them within 1 astronomical unit (149 million km or 92 million miles) of the Sun, and thus relatively close to the Earth as well. But this figure could be as little as 1 or 2 percent of their total number, Eismont said. New asteroids are discovered every day.

© RIA Novosti.

Asteroids That Buzz Planet Earth

Most suitable asteroids have elliptical orbits that bring them close to Earth at certain points, while the rest of the time they are several astronomical units away.

It is currently possible to send an unmannedProton rocket – a staple of the Russian space program –to land on an asteroid, carrying with it up to 2 tons of rocket fuel, Eismont said. Properly anchored, the rocket fuel would then ignite at a designated time, tweaking the asteroid’s orbit.

Space rocks best suited for planetary defense weigh 1,500-2,000 tons and are 10 to 15 meters in diameter – smaller than the meteorite that blew up over the Urals, which measured 17 meters across and weighed over 9,000 tons. The 99942 Apophis – which was considered a potential hazard until updated calculations rolled in earlier this year – is estimated to be 325 meters in diameter and weigh 40 megatons.

Asteroids the size of Apophis hit Earth about once every 63,000 years, experts say, but the casualties from this kind of event could reach 10 million, and that warrants some caution.

Meteorites such as the one that blew up over the Urals hit once every 50 to 80 years, Eismont said.

The asteroid 1998 QE2, which is 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles) in diameter, will zip past Earth at a distance of 5.8 million km (3.6 million miles) – or 15 lunar distances – at 20:59 universal time Friday (0:59 Saturday, Moscow time.)

The program costs about $1 billion per Proton launch, and the equipment needed to maneuver an asteroid into position can be developed within 10 to 12 years, Eismont said.

This whopping price tag may suggest that the plan is doomed to the realm of sci-fi. But in fact, NASA is already doing something similar with its Asteroid Retrieval and Utilization project, which proposes to rope in a 500-ton asteroid and bring it into lunar orbit, where it can be studied by manned missions starting in 2025. The White House has supported a plan to allot $105 million in 2014 for the first stage of the NASA project, which has a total price tag of $2.6 billion.

The Russian project saw money from a state “megagrant” of 150 million rubles ($4.8 million) plowed into it, but so far remains purely on paper.

Commenting shortly after the meteorite incident in the Urals last winter, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said that planetary defense is a priority for Russia’s space industry. But the Russian government has so far not expressed any interest in the asteroid-ramming project.

The approach may counter some classes of celestial hazard, said Donald Yeomans, who heads the search for near-Earth objects at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena – a job that landed him on Time magazine’s 2013 list of 100 most influential people in the world.

“If the asteroid that was predicted to strike Earth was fairly large and massive, its deflection as a result of a controlled impact by a small asteroid might make some sense,” Yeomans told RIA Novosti.

However, smaller asteroids, though still dangerous, are better intercepted by ramming them with more maneuverable spacecraft, not other asteroids, he told RIA Novosti.

The Russian project raises a lot of technical problems, such as developing the asteroid-maneuvering equipment and anchoring it to the asteroid, said Vladimir Surdin of Moscow State University’s Sternberg Astronomical Institute.

“There are other problems too, but nothing fatal. The method needs work, [but] it should be in the planetary defense arsenal,” Surdin said.

And mankind needs just such an arsenal, given that, at least in Eismont’s view, some kind of “attack” from space is inevitable.

“Nobody can tell you when the next asteroid will come, but everyone would tell you that come it will,” Eismont said.

(Updated with correct date, May 31 instead of June 31, correct size of the asteroid 1998 QE2, and a revised definition of near-Earth asteroids.)

US State Department Arms Contro lHead in the Sand on Asteroid Defense "a slightly artificial issue"

From: http://www.worldbulletin.net/?aType=haber&ArticleID=109845

The United States plans to collaborate with Russia on missile issues and Afghanistan, but not planetary defense from space threats, a senior US diplomat said Saturday.

Building a joint asteroid defense system is not a “real proposal” until the project has funding, which is not on the cards with either country, said US Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, Rose Gottemoeller.

The meteorite issue became a global topic after a celestial body exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in mid-February, injuring 1,500.

Meanwhile, Washington hopes to convince Russia to continue slashing strategic nuclear arms, Gottemoeller said on Ekho Moskvy radio, speaking in Russian.

The New START nuclear arms treaty, signed by Russia and the United States in 2010, limits deployed nuclear missiles and bombers capable of carrying nuclear weaponry for each country to 700.

Russia would consider further cuts to its nuclear arsenal if it gets guarantees that US plans to build a missile defense shield in Europe pose no threat to Russia’s strategic parity with the United States, Chief of Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov said Thursday.

The missile defense shield is a “slightly artificial” issue that Washington hopes to resolve, Gottemoeller said on Ekho Moskvy. She reiterated earlier this week the official US position that the shield would not affect Russia’s nuclear capabilities.

Washington also hopes to draw on Moscow’s vast experience concerning Afghanistan ahead of the US troops’ pullout of the country in 2014, Gottemoeller said.

Bob Zubrin Gets it Wrong

This is a classic case of someone who get's it wrong on the fundamentals, failing to perceive what are really the key and important technological vectors.

From: http://www.spacenews.com/article/opinion/35405nasa%E2%80%99s-asteroid-absurdity#.UdDU5jusiSo

NASA’s Asteroid Absurdity

NASA recently announced that it has embraced the idea of an asteroid retrieval mission as the central goal of its human spaceflight program for the next decade or two. According to the agency’s leadership, this mission will accomplish a number of important objectives, including delivering a science bonanza, demonstrating a technology useful for planetary defense, creating a large cache of materials in space that can provide in situ resources to support space exploration activities and achieving the president’s goal of flying a mission to a near-Earth asteroid as a way of breaking out of geocentric space and demonstrating human deep-space capabilities necessary for subsequent missions to Mars. 
Since this initiative will cost many billions of dollars and, by diverting the entire multibillion-dollar human spaceflight program for decades, impose an opportunity cost amounting to many tens of billions of dollars, it is imperative that these claims be examined critically to see if any of them are true. 
Let us therefore consider each of them in order.
There is no doubt that the “asteroid” mission, which involves using an electric propulsion spacecraft with a power supply half that of the international space station to push a 3.5-meter-radius object (i.e., a rock, not an asteroid) to a lunar-like orbit, and then visiting it with astronauts flying sorties in the Orion capsule sometime in the third decade of the 21st century, would eventually return some science. However, vastly more science could be achieved, much sooner, at much lower cost and risk, simply by sending a flotilla of small robotic spacecraft to collect kilogram-sized samples from multiple real asteroids and return them all the way to Earth.
While the electric propulsion system proposed for the so-called asteroid mission can be used over a period of several years of continuous thrusting to alter the trajectory of 3.5-meter rocks, objects representing planetary threats have masses thousands to millions of times greater, and it would not even be practical to despin them to allow continuous thrusting to begin, let alone deliver to them sufficient propellant or power to change their trajectories. There are tens of thousands of asteroids with radii over 100 meters, each with a mass of over 15 million tons. Assuming that such an object is in an Earth-like orbit, it would require a velocity change of about 1 meter per second to move the periapsis of its orbit by a distance equal to the diameter of Earth, and thus have a chance at turning a direct hit into a near-miss. Using electric propulsion, about 500 tons of propellant would be required, and the 40-kilowatt system employed by the asteroid mission would need to thrust continuously for 250 years to deliver the necessary push. A much more practical approach would be to send a missile armed with a conventional or nuclear warhead (depending upon the size of the object) to give the asteroid a sudden solid shove by blasting a small portion of its mass off its side. Unfortunately, in order to preserve a false rationale for the asteroid mission’s electric propulsion system, such more potent approaches to planetary protection are being neglected.
The 3.5-meter rock moved to near-lunar orbit in the asteroid mission would have a mass of about 500 tons, which is about 20 times the mass of the system that would need to be launched to low Earth orbit to move it. This might appear to be a good trade, but the rock would likely be only about 5 percent water by weight, so in terms of potentially useful mass delivered to space it would only be a match. However, hydrogen and oxygen launched to low Earth orbit are already in useful form as pure cryogenic propellants, whereas the water in the rock would have to be extracted by processing 3 meters depth of rock, then collected, electrolyzed and cryogenically liquefied, all of which would require a system of considerable power and complexity. Furthermore, in its proposed near-lunar retrograde orbit, the propellant produced from the rock would be in the wrong place to support useful space exploration activity. In fact, the delta-V needed to leave low Earth orbit to reach the rock propellant depot would be about the same as the delta-V needed to leave low Earth orbit and fly directly to Mars. Therefore, even if the rock propellant depot were there today, ready to provide propellant for free to any Mars-bound mission willing to stop by to refuel, it would not make any sense to go there. 
In situ resource utilization is a key technology to space exploration, but the resources to be used need to be located at the destination of interest, not somewhere else. Martian missions need to use resources located on Mars. Lunar missions need to use resources located on the Moon. A rock in a retrograde lunar orbit is of no resource utilization interest to anyone.
As to the claim that the asteroid retrieval mission achieves the goal set by President Barack Obama in 2010 of breaking out of geocentric space, that is simply untrue. In point of fact, aside from potentially providing a fat contract to an excessively influential electric propulsion company (see my op-ed “The VASIMR Hoax,” SpaceNews, July 13, 2011), the entire purpose of the initiative is to find a way to shirk the challenge of human interplanetary flight.
The asteroid retrieval mission is not a competent way to advance science, planetary defense, in situ resource utilization or human interplanetary flight. It thus represents an enormous waste of time and money that could prevent NASA’s human spaceflight program from achieving anything worthwhile for decades. Congress must not accept this. Hearings need to be held, with the NASA administrator required to defend his plan in the presence of technically qualified critics. If the plan is found to be irrational, then lawmakers need to insist that it be replaced with a space agency strategy that actually makes sense. 
The American people want and deserve a human spaceflight program that really explores new worlds. It is past time that NASA stepped up to the plate and accepted that challenge.
Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Astronautics and the Mars Society and author of “The Case for Mars.” His latest work, “Mars Direct: Space Exploration, the Red Planet, and the Human Future,” was recently published by Penguin.

Lizards Appear to Be Hardier Astronauts Than Mice

From: http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/smartnews/2013/05/lizards-appear-to-be-hardier-astronauts-than-mice/#.UZt9227tajA.email

a Russian experiment concluded yesterday when a space capsule containing live mice, lizards, crayfish and fish was recovered around 750 miles south of Moscow, the Associated Press reports.

The capsule spent a month traveling 375 miles above the planet’s surface. That’s higher than the International Space Station’s orbit. The Russian scientists say that this experiment represents that longest period animals have ever spent alone in space and been recovered alive. In 2007, AP writes, the last research capsule to carry live animals into space spent only 12 days in orbit.

Not all of the research subjects made it, however.

Fewer than half of the 53 mice and other rodents who blasted off on April 19 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome survived the flight, Russian news agencies reported, quoting Vladimir Sychov, deputy director of the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems and the lead researcher.

Sychov said this was to be expected and the surviving mice were sufficient to complete the study, which was designed to show the effects of weightlessness and other factors of space flight on cell structure. All 15 of the lizards survived, he said.

Read more: http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/smartnews/2013/05/lizards-appear-to-be-hardier-astronauts-than-mice/#ixzz2XkgenOvF
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

Blog of the Planetary Defense Conference

Buzz Aldrin Get's it Wrong

From: http://www.topsecretwriters.com/2013/05/buzz-aldrin-says-space-exploration-more-important-than-planetary-defense/

Buzz Aldrin Says Space Exploration More Important Than Planetary Defense
“Bringing an asteroid back to Earth? What’s that have to do with space exploration?” Aldrin asked delegates at the summit.

Instead, the 83 year old shared his plan to “cycle” spacecraft to Mars and to continually launch trajectories between Earth and Mars to develop and expand a colony on the Red Planet.

Aldrin also promotes using Phobos, a moon of Mars, as a home base for landings.

Tatooine Like Planets could host life

dual suns might actually help prevent damaging solar winds from bombarding planets in their system, allowing for a wider "Goldilocks zone" of habitability, Joni Clark, an undergraduate at New Mexico State University, said..."It also leaves the potential open for smaller planets that have less magnetic field protection to remain habitable because in a sense they don't have to protect themselves from as much as they would in a single star case," Clark said.

Clark found that some "p-type" planets (that orbit both stars in a binary system) receive 0.7 percent less flux from solar wind than Earth depending on their position in the solar system.

18 June 2013

NASA Announces Asteroid Grand Challenge

June 18, 2013

Sarah Ramsey/Rachel Kraft
Headquarters, Washington                                   

RELEASE: 13-188


WASHINGTON -- NASA announced Tuesday a Grand Challenge focused on finding all asteroid threats to human populations and knowing what to do about them.

The challenge, which was announced at an asteroid initiative industry and partner day at NASA Headquarters in Washington, is a large-scale effort that will use multi-disciplinary collaborations and a variety of partnerships with other government agencies, international partners, industry, academia, and citizen scientists. It complements NASA's recently announced mission to redirect an asteroid and send humans to study it.

"NASA already is working to find asteroids that might be a threat to our planet, and while we have found 95 percent of the large asteroids near the Earth's orbit, we need to find all those that might be a threat to Earth," said NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver. "This Grand Challenge is focused on detecting and characterizing asteroids and learning how to deal with potential threats. We will also harness public engagement, open innovation and citizen science to help solve this global problem."

Grand Challenges are ambitious goals on a national or global scale that capture the imagination and demand advances in innovation and breakthroughs in science and technology. They are an important element of President Obama's Strategy for American Innovation.

"I applaud NASA for issuing this Grand Challenge because finding asteroid threats, and having a plan for dealing with them, needs to be an all-hands-on-deck effort," said Tom Kalil, deputy director for technology and innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. "The efforts of private-sector partners and our citizen scientists will augment the work NASA already is doing to improve near-Earth object detection capabilities."

NASA also released a request for information (RFI) that invites industry and potential partners to offer ideas on accomplishing NASA's goal to locate, redirect, and explore an asteroid, as well as find and plan for asteroid threats. The RFI is open for 30 days, and responses will be used to help develop public engagement opportunities and a September industry workshop.


To watch the archived video of Tuesday's asteroid initiative industry and partner day, visit:

For more information about NASA's asteroid initiative, including presentations from Tuesday's event and a link to the new RFI, visit: