We don’t hear much about this issue because our government doesn’t want us to spend time worrying about something that everyday citizens have no control over. But on the other hand, I think it’s important to know what the issues are because we need to get behind NASA’s budget in reference to how much is spent on addressing this dangerous issue. Just so you know that I’m not playing Chicken Little let me share a few interesting facts:
In 1989 a huge asteroid passed through Earth’s orbit and flew by without hitting us. The scary thing is the earth was at the very spot the asteroid passed through just six hours earlier.
In 1908 Siberia was hit with an asteroid about a half-mile wide. They determined based on the damage that it was comparable to the Enola Gay dropping 100 atomic bombs. Could you imagine what would have happened if it hit New York City versus an isolated area?
Space programs across the globe are worried enough they are working together to map asteroids and their trajectories. So far they’ve figured out there are around 700,000 between Jupiter and Mars.
In 2005 NASA launched a probe called Deep Impact in an effort to see if we could effectively land on a 22-mile long asteroid that was travelling 15 miles a second; it worked. I find this accomplishment amazing. They now know they can hit not only a fast moving target but also one that tumbles through space.
The next step for them is to figure out what they can do to take an asteroid off of its trajectory or blow it up altogether. A nuclear bomb wouldn’t be effective because of the atmosphere so it would explode but it wouldn’t cause any damage; it would just dissipate. This is comparable to NASA using rockets to get a space craft out of our atmosphere but they stop using them when the space craft reaches space because they’d no longer be effective.
One idea NASA likes is to send a few space probes up with Ion propulsion systems (electrostatic or electromagnet) which can effectively move an object through space. They want the probes to land on the asteroid and gently steer it off course. One thing I find very interesting is that back in the 60’s there was a Star Trek episode where they encountered a ship that used Ion propulsion even though it didn’t exist at the time.
I’m not going to say that you should be worried about asteroids but I thought it would be good for you to know NASA’s concerns and plans. Unfortunately their budget for this particular project is laughable due to cutbacks.
If you’re interested in helping in any way I suggest you contact your legislators; you can find their websites by going to www.consertativeusa.org. It lists all representatives for your state so you just have to click on their name to get to their website. Once there click on Contact and send an email. I’d recommend mentioning that you’re concerned about NASA’s dwindling budget and that you want their budget increased specifically in the area of
Take care and keep your eyes on the sky...but not while driving!