backtop


Print 88 comment(s) - last by masher2.. on Feb 21 at 9:18 PM

According to some experts, since it is inevitable that an asteroid or meteor will hit Earth, the U.N. should do something about it

Due to the threat that an asteroid named Apophis poses to the Earth, a group of astronauts, scientists and engineers want the United Nations to have a plan for killer asteroids.  A UN treaty draft dealing with the complicated yet unlikely issue will be drawn up before the end of 2007.  Topics covered in the draft include who would be in charge of deflecting or destroying objects that pose a threat to the planet.  For example, the U.S. Congress has assigned NASA the roll of actively searching for objects that are considered threatening.

Apophis is traveling around 28,000 miles per hour towards Earth, and could hit the planet sometime in 2036, warn space professionals.  Astronomers who are monitoring the asteroid admit that the chances of impact on Earth are extremely low, but recommend proper scenarios should be planned in case it does near Earth around 2036.  

Some experts have vehemently warned that it is only a matter of time before an object such as an asteroid or meteor strikes Earth.  NASA astronaut Edward Lu has gone as far as telling NASA that it should send out a spacecraft designed to be able to attempt to divert asteroids.

NASA is currently monitoring 127 near-Earth objects (NEO) that could pose a threat of hitting the planet.


Comments     Threshold


This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Cost
By jodhas on 2/20/2007 4:10:06 AM , Rating: 3
Due to the creation of powerful telescopes, we can spot NEOs many years before impact or near impact.

Taken from Wikipedia
"Additional observations through 2006 resulted in Apophis being lowered to Torino Scale 0 on August 6, 2006."

The chance of the asteroid hitting the earth is pretty darn slim.

So here is the big question...
Who is willing to dish out billions for something that will never see the light of the day? I just hope and pray it isn't our government.




RE: Cost
By DOSGuy on 2/20/2007 4:44:37 AM , Rating: 4
Apophis may not be the one, but we don't know yet know how much time we have before the next impact. It's always a good idea to be prepared. Scientists and engineers warned of the threat that hurricanes posed to New Orleans for years, but governments didn't think they could justify the expense of protections that might never be needed. By the time a disaster was on its way, it was too late to do anything about it. In hindsight, we're outraged that our governments didn't protect us. How enraged will we be if government inaction allows millions to die?


RE: Cost
By Moishe on 2/20/2007 8:20:30 AM , Rating: 4
I think this is fear mongering. I will not live in fear of something I can't see coming or something I can't stop from coming. I am certainly not outraged when the government doesn't protect me from natural disasters. The government is not my babysitter and I'm no child. If I die, I die. I think it's pretty foolish to spend a lot of money to protect against an event where the odds are so huge against it ever happening. It's like the odds of winning the lottery. I think the world should slowly develop something *together* and eventually they'll have something.

I wouldn't spend a cent to protect from being hit by a random bullet. Why? Because the odds are so low it would a waste of money. You'd laugh at someone who wore a bullet-proof vest all the time. They'd seem paranoid. Why? Because most of us will live for 80 years never once being shot at. It's the weirdos and kooks that people laugh at for owning gas masks and bomb shelters.

The government or the UN cannot protect us from natural disasters, and if we give them our money, they'll waste it with fraud like they did with the Oil-For-Food program.

I wouldn't give a red cent to those corrupt bastards if I had a choice.


RE: Cost
By masher2 (blog) on 2/20/2007 8:36:19 AM , Rating: 4
> "I think this is fear mongering..."

Massive asteroids have hit the earth before. They will do so again-- this is mathematical certainty. Not "fear mongering".

In any given year, the chances of it happening are very low, true. So while it's not practical to spend hundreds of billions of dollars until we see a more verifiable threat, a more modest (read "cheap") program of detection and planning does make strong financial sense.


RE: Cost
By jtesoro on 2/20/2007 8:58:40 AM , Rating: 2
Someone who worked in a government program about the asteroid threat has posted in DT before. If I recall correctly, he said something like: "The risk of an asteroid hitting the earth is real and measurable. On the other hand, I'm not losing any sleep over it."

I don't know how much money is spent in this and similar programs, but it seems there is at least some effort being put in to address the potential threat.


RE: Cost
By masher2 (blog) on 2/20/2007 9:16:21 AM , Rating: 3
I'm not losing any sleep over it also. I don't lose sleep over the possibility of my house burning down or my cars being stolen...because I have an insurance policy.

That's all that's being asked for here. Not hundreds of billions for a space-based force. Just a few million for planning and preparation. Cheap insurance.


RE: Cost
By Moishe on 2/20/2007 9:29:58 AM , Rating: 1
If you believe "just a few million" then you're naive... and I know you aren't that naive.

If the UN or even the US government were to spend any money at all on planning to deflect/protect against asteroids, a few million will cover only the first 2 months of planning, if that.

We are talking about billions in the long run at the very least. Bombs aren't cheap, space vehicles aren't cheap, and bureaucracy is wasteful.

I think a reasonable commonsense response is something like $100 mil each year split equally by all members of the UN Security Counsel. Set goals, make plans, implement small pieces, and build on it. In 10-50 years you'd have spent 1-5 Billion and produced a working plan with proven and tested hardware.

The problem here is that government is incapable of making plans and sticking to them,


RE: Cost
By masher2 (blog) on 2/20/2007 9:42:45 AM , Rating: 2
> "We are talking about billions in the long run...I think a reasonable commonsense response is something like $100 mil each year ..."

Are you hearing what you're saying? $100M/year IS billions in the long run. Within a decade, in fact.

I have to point out that what the ASE is asking for is actually substantially cheaper than $100M annually. They want an international treaty for cooperation, increased monitoring of NEOs, and some initial feasibility studies on deflection. That's it...an annual cost less than half of what you yourself say is reasonable. So where's the beef?


RE: Cost
By timmiser on 2/20/2007 4:17:35 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think you heard what he said. I believe he was merely backing up his statement that it would in fact cost billions in the long run by costing 100 mil a year for planning, etc.

Regardless, I think it is imperative to any statement or comment to define "planning". If it means dialog and a few reports/essays on what we could do, then it shouldn't cost that much. If planning actually means design contracts, prototypes, testing of hardware, than yes, it could cost that much.


RE: Cost
By Martin Blank on 2/20/2007 11:32:42 AM , Rating: 2
Bombs? If you think that bombs are the answer, you're not very well versed in this. Bombs have a high potential of just making a bunch of smaller units that are harder to track and potentially scatter the damage across the entire planet.

One of the top two ideas involves painting the asteroid with white paint to allow photons bouncing off of it to alter its course. The other involves putting a weight of a few tons in a parallel orbit, allowing gravity to work to pull the asteroid to a slightly different orbit. This may not seem like much, but every cm/s change in direction alters its location by 315km each year.


RE: Cost
By rtrski on 2/20/2007 2:12:39 PM , Rating: 2
You've got to be kidding me: "put a weight of a few tons in a parallel orbit, allowing gravity to work..."

How, exactly, is expending all the propellant to get a near identical orbit out of a FEW TON MASS going to be more efficient than attaching a thruster to the asteroid itself and expending the same propellant (plus the 'few tons' you no longer have to ship out there) to deflect the asteroid directly?

And if you respond that the asteroid may be 'orders of magnitude bigger' than the 'few ton mass', your 'few ton mass' would not gravitationally deflect it, anyway.


RE: Cost
By masher2 (blog) on 2/20/2007 2:29:45 PM , Rating: 2
> "How, exactly is [this] more efficient than attaching a thruster to the asteroid itself..."

It's not. However, a thruster attached to an asteroid has to exert its momentum vector at a single point. Most asteroids don't have the tensile strength for this to work.

Here's a useful analogy. Consider a enormous ball of dust in space, held together by nothing but its own gravitation. Now, glue a rocket motor somewhere to it, then turn it on and see what happens.

Now, your average asteroid isn't quite that friable...but some of them aren't far from it. And all it takes is a small shifting of the asteroid's center of mass under acceleration, and suddenly your thruster isn't pushing it away from the earth, but rather towards it.


RE: Cost
By rtrski on 2/20/2007 8:12:35 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry, that argument doesn't wash either. Yes, I said "thruster" singular...my bad. I figured anyone reading could understand I meant a propulsion system, knowing full well that the thrust would have to be distributed over a surface (probably many small thrusters) as well as kept low to avoid breaking the asteroid. You want the total thrust vector to exert against the center of mass...doesn't' mean you're forced to a single thruster pointing along that line. Is the shuttle engine designed that way, as a single big cone pointed at one point? No, because the structural framework and load-distribution of the shuttle was designed to transfer loads. One would certainly need to evaluate the asteroid's cohesion and center of mass vs. its volumetric centroid - effectively its own 'load transfer' dynamics and stress/strain handling ability. But this could all be done by placing multiple thrusters on a central control, ramping them up slowly and monitoring resulting spin/momentum changes until a viable concerted effort was generated. In fact since the asteroid probably has a spin to begin with, one probably needs an orchestrated thrust from a skien of thrust units distributed all the way around it, turning on and off as the appropriate surface normal points in the direction away from which you want to move. There'd be no sense in expending propellant to de-spin it first.

As for 'shattering' the asteroid, all you have to do is keep the net thrust below the self-gravitational value of the asteroid itself. Forces a (milli- if not micro-gees) low acceleration, but that's what you'd be stuck with anyway with any system (ion, etc.) you could get out to interplanetary space with enough propellant to do anything with.

If it was friable enough to represent a dust-ball, it *would* be 'explodable' after all, not to mention extremely likely of breaking up from tidal forces if it was coming in on anything other than a perfectly targeted trajectory, or breaking/burnin up *significantly* due to internal outgassing and friction/drag on atmospheric entry immediately following. Would still do some (potentially significant) damage to the atmosphere, but kind of rule out a deep crater impact....

Tunguska was estimated as being one such 'puffball'. Felled trees, left a crater...but no where near the size/depth it should've been for a solid mass of the size they guess it was from the energy released.

Bottom line is: the 'accelerate a huge mass to parallel orbit' answer just makes no sense. All you're doing is having to engineer something that itself behaves like a 'rigid body' despite massing enough to have a gravitational attraction on the asteroid, and then handle all the delta-vees to get it out there and turned around into a parallel orbit, which means you're putting it into pretty much the same collision trajectory. And if you screw THAT up...you just increased the incoming danger.

Frankly the 'paint' idea isn't that great either...it'd take some serious surface area for albedo changes to make a difference. But extending a light sail (would also have to be tethered to the asteroid in such a way as to not break it and "tug on its center of mass" in net effect) might, so I let that one slide originally as the right idea at least.


RE: Cost
By masher2 (blog) on 2/20/2007 11:27:59 PM , Rating: 2
> "Yes, I said "thruster" singular...my bad. I figured anyone reading could understand I meant a propulsion system"

One thruster, multiple thrusters, it doesn't make much difference. They can still only act against a limited number of surface contact points...a surface that is, for most asteroids, too brittle and friable to withstand anything but the faintest of forces.

A gravity tractor, now, works against the entire volume of the asteroid. And, compared to a large network of anchored thrusters, is much simpler. Just plot a near intercept to the asteroid, then keep a parallel-but-slightly-diverging course heading over a few years time. It can be done totally remotely, without the need for humans (or robots) to attempt a surface landing to mount and position any hardware.

You're welcome to disbelieve me if you wish, but any expert on the subject will tell you the same thing. I'm not exactly breaking any new ground here.

> "the 'accelerate a huge mass to parallel orbit' answer just makes no sense..."

I think you're misunderstanding the amount of mass required. A few tons is all that's needed. Yes, its gravitational influence on a multi million ton asteroid is near-negligible. But that influence working over several years is all thats needed to avoid a collision.


RE: Cost
By Pirks on 2/20/07, Rating: -1
RE: Cost
By masher2 (blog) on 2/20/2007 4:50:44 PM , Rating: 3
In the absence of gravity and a containing atmosphere, the shock wave of an explosion is quite different than here on earth. Look at my "dust ball" post to see why a DU interceptor (or a nuclear bomb, for that matter) is unlikely to work against an asteroid target.

A gravity tractor is a much more reliable method. Just position a semi-massive satellite near the asteroid. Then, over a few years time, slowly use the gravitational attraction between the two to modify the asteroid's path.


RE: Cost
By Pirks on 2/20/07, Rating: -1
RE: Cost
By masher2 (blog) on 2/20/2007 7:22:10 PM , Rating: 2
If you really could disperse it into a very large cloud-- and keep it that way- then yes, it'd reduce the threat to zero. However, that wouldn't happen. A DU interceptor would simply punch a small hole through. A nuclear explosion would disperse it into several smaller, but still massive pieces...which as it cooled and coalesced under self-gravitation, probably wouldn't help much if at all.

So its a crap-shoot. A nuclear blast *could* help ...but it could turn one large object that may hit you, into several smaller ones, some of which will definitely strike.


RE: Cost
By rtrski on 2/20/2007 8:21:53 PM , Rating: 2
Anyone know the surface gee of an asteroid in the type of volume and mass range we're talking about?

All you have to do is accelerate the mass up to escape velocity. And lacking "a containing atmosphere" which provides DRAG on the initial explosion, works for you, not against you.


RE: Cost
By Pirks on 2/21/07, Rating: -1
RE: Cost
By masher2 (blog) on 2/21/2007 9:18:00 PM , Rating: 2
> "if the explosion is powerful enough - could it be possible that it propels all these pieces with enough INITIAL velocity so that they will never coalesce again...?"

Yes it is. The big problem though is that explosions are unpredictable. It could be, we set off the bomb, and it solves all our problems. Or it could make them worse. We can't predict the results, not with the best simulation algorithms in existence. And that makes the nuke approach a frightening one....even if it may sometime be our only option.

> "I've read somewhere that hydrogen bomb, unlike fission bomb, has no upper cap on yield, you can create it as powerful as you want. do you think it's a feasible path to pursue? "

This is correct. But the bigger the yield, the more unpredictable the end result. Imagine it as the initial "break" on a game of pool...only instead of 10 balls, you have 10 million. Your H-bomb "cue stick" will certainly destroy a large portion of the asteroid. But it may well wind up accelerating a massive chunk of it directly towards the earth.

Remember that, if we spot an asteroid early, its unlikely we'll know with certainty whether or not it will hit. Say the chance is 1 in 1000. Do we break it up into 1000 pieces, each of which is less destructive...but some of which will definitely hit? That's a tough call. And that's why we're looking at things like a gravity tractor instead.


RE: Cost
By rtrski on 2/20/2007 8:19:42 PM , Rating: 2
Ok, pray tell...if we can't get the asteroid to move via direct intervention, how do we get this hypothetical semi-massive satellite positioned near it, hmmm? Magic?

Sure, a 'gravity tractor' is the most attractive concept (no pun intended) as it acts on all the mass at once, distributed...but how do you get a big enough one out there to do the job, in the appropriate inbound orbital trajectory?

Hint: it'd take the same effort as moving an asteroid-sized mass to begin with, wouldn't it?? No...WORSE. Maybe you can 'choose your mass' by picking a known, solid-nickel-iron body from somewhere, that happens to have an existing orbit that can realistically be altered to meet the one you want to divert. But you've got to get out TO it, then get IT back to the incoming threat body. You increased the trip (time, propellant, complexity) by an additional leg.


RE: Cost
By masher2 (blog) on 2/20/2007 11:35:31 PM , Rating: 1
> "Hint: it'd take the same effort as moving an asteroid-sized mass to begin with, wouldn't it?? No...WORSE..."

Err, no. A few tons is all that's required, less than a millionth of the mass of the asteroid itself. Here's a link to a research paper containing all the calculations on the proposal. Its quite feasible...no "magic" required.

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v438/n7065/fu...


RE: Cost
By rtrski on 2/21/2007 11:38:05 AM , Rating: 2
I've read it. The magic is getting 20 tons there and having 20 years advance notice to do so, while being able to hover 50 meters away, always thrusting 'away' from the roid while not splashing the face with your thrust, for over a year.

Solely to avoid having to touch down and time or distribute thrust because of spin and fragility. If you've got that kind of advanced notice, getting a smaller craft out earlier and using less thrust works just as well if not better, given their assumption of density.

Heck, they're internally inconsistent - they use a density that's heavier than solid iron (you do the math; I did, unless the article I read misquoted 200 meters 'across' (I read as diameter) and 60 million tons) yet say this is to avoid pushing on a 'fragile pile of rubble' asteroid. Talk about stacking the statistics...

Don't believe every fish for grants you read.


RE: Cost
By masher2 (blog) on 2/21/2007 1:10:35 PM , Rating: 1
> "I've read it...."

When you mistakenly believe we'd need a satellite as massive as the asteroid itself, instead of one nearly a million times less, it makes one think otherwise.

> "...always thrusting 'away' from the roid while not splashing the face with your thrust..."

Again, you misunderstand. You don't need to thrust "away" from the asteroid. You'd thrust at a lateral angle to the axis between the two objects, at an acceleration low enough to keep the distance between them constant. Lu and Love used an angle of 20 degrees in their example...more than enough to avoid imparting momentum to the asteroid from your exhaust.

> "Heck, they're internally inconsistent - they use a density that's heavier than solid iron..."

That's part of the problem of reading popular versions of research articles, rather than the research itself. Lu and Love used a density of 2g/cc for their calculations, less than 1/3 of that of iron. Some reporters simply got confused is all.

Seriously, if you want to put your own opinion ahead of every astrophysicist on the planet, you'll need a bit more justification than "I just think so." Nuclear explosions are not an ideal solution for addressing an asteroid threat. Now, if tomorrow we suddenly discover we're due for a hit in six months, they'll likely be our only option. But that doesn't make it a good one, and it doesn't mean it will work. That's why we're trying to plan ahead now.


RE: Cost
By GhandiInstinct on 2/20/2007 4:34:29 PM , Rating: 2
Moishe I wish there were less and less of people like you on Earth, we'd be much more advanced as a civilization, less pessism and cynicism and more efficiency and production.

As well as those people who agree with you, what a sad comment.


RE: Cost
By mark2ft on 2/20/2007 6:52:33 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The problem here is that government is incapable of making plans and sticking to them


I think you just crossed the line from observant citizen to anarchist-who-will-always-disfavor-any-action-taken -by-the-government.


RE: Cost
By Moishe on 2/20/2007 9:19:08 AM , Rating: 2
Hey, I'm not saying it cannot happen or will not happen. But for me, fear-mongering is when the fear you induce by talking about it doesn't in any way match the odds of the event happening. You can say realistically, "an asteroid could hit the earth at any time". You could also say "it's possible that an asteroid could hit the earth at any time, but it's highly unlikely." Both are true. The former implies that the event will happen relatively soon and we should be worried about it. The latter implies that it could happen, but that it probably won't relatively soon (soon on a scale of hundreds if not thousands of years).

Based on history as we know it, the latter is far more accurate.

So let me repeat myself.
It's not that it can't happen, it's that it probably won't in our lifetime. We SHOULD spend money over time to come up with a realistic solution, but we SHOULD NOT
spend a lot of money in the short term to protect against a far-fetched possibility.

I can come up with plenty of analogies to describe my ideas for BALANCE, but I might be just wasting my breath.


RE: Cost
By masher2 (blog) on 2/20/2007 9:36:29 AM , Rating: 3
> "the fear you induce by talking about it doesn't in any way match the odds of the event happening."

No one is inflating the odds of such an event. A 100-meter strike (large enough to wipe out a city) is probable only on a thousand-year basis. However, given such a strike could cost trillions of dollars, spending a few million annually makes good financial sense.

I have to point out that, just in the past 100 years (in 1908), the earth was hit by an asteroid large enough to kill millions, had it struck a major city.


RE: Cost
By RogueSpear on 2/20/2007 11:14:47 AM , Rating: 2
I think that was the one over Siberia and when you see the numbers associated with that impact it certainly boggles the mind. If I remember correct, that object was only the size of a small bus.


RE: Cost
By mark2ft on 2/20/2007 7:03:01 PM , Rating: 2
I don't quite understand your reasoning. And I'll use some analogies as well.

You can't say that we should be concerned about things that will happen really soon, but on the other hand say that we should not be concerned about things that will happen far in the future.

If I follow you correctly, you're implying that it's OK to pollute a little bit because there won't be any problems relatively soon. It's OK to worry about problems that will happen in your generation, but not the ones that will arise 2, 3, 4, or 5 generations down the line. It's OK to shrug off acid rain because it doesn't really hurt us much right now.

I think that everyone has a duty to our posterity to keep the Earth a safe place to live. If asteroids are a threat for 10 years, and yeah we fund impact prevention measures, but for 100 years nothing happens, then we shouldn't decide to scrap funding for such programs in the 111th year.


RE: Cost
By javiergf on 2/20/2007 11:26:16 AM , Rating: 2
That reminds me to the intro of the Movie "Armaggeddon"... "It has happened before, it will happen again, the only question is when", Relax folks! We will sent Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck to drill and nuke that bitch. :)


RE: Cost
By SmokeRngs on 2/20/2007 2:35:50 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I think this is fear mongering. I will not live in fear of something I can't see coming or something I can't stop from coming. I am certainly not outraged when the government doesn't protect me from natural disasters. The government is not my babysitter and I'm no child. If I die, I die. I think it's pretty foolish to spend a lot of money to protect against an event where the odds are so huge against it ever happening. It's like the odds of winning the lottery. I think the world should slowly develop something *together* and eventually they'll have something.


Fear mongering is to create fear without a true cause for it. How many asteroids have hit the planet in the past? Thus, this isn't fear mongering. There aren't any odds against something like this hitting the planet as it's just a matter of time before it happens AGAIN.

quote:
I wouldn't spend a cent to protect from being hit by a random bullet. Why? Because the odds are so low it would a waste of money. You'd laugh at someone who wore a bullet-proof vest all the time. They'd seem paranoid. Why? Because most of us will live for 80 years never once being shot at. It's the weirdos and kooks that people laugh at for owning gas masks and bomb shelters.


There are guns pointed in your direction every day? Not necessarily at you, but in your direction. Also, you have to be able to see these weapons pointed at you. This needs to occur every day. You also need to have been shot before. If all this is true, then I can accept your analogy. Until all of those are true, your analogy is false.

quote:
The government or the UN cannot protect us from natural disasters, and if we give them our money, they'll waste it with fraud like they did with the Oil-For-Food program.


I'll agree with you that the UN can't protect us from anything. I previously made a comment about the UN concerning this. About the only thing the UN would do for a plan is transmit a UN resolution to the asteroid stating it needs to stay away from the planet or there would be consequences. When the asteroid ignored the resolution, the UN would transmit another resolution with unstated consequences as the consequence for ignoring the first resolution.

I disagree that the government can't protect us from a natural disaster such as this. Unlike a hurricane, tornado or tsunami an asteroid can be seen in advance to prepare a way to stop or deflect it. We may not have the means currently to do it, but given enough time something can be devised.

On a lighter note, SG-1 has already faced this threat and defeated it. I'm not worried about it as I'm sure the performance can be repeated. Hell, since we build our own interstellar ships now, I'm sure they can get something out there in no time to move the asteroid a bit so it passes by the planet.


RE: Cost
By timmiser on 2/20/2007 4:06:59 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
There aren't any odds against something like this hitting the planet as it's just a matter of time before it happens AGAIN


Of course "TIME" is the key word here. If you look at the 5 billion years the earth has been around, there have only been a small handful of "global killers" as far as we know. Of course, us humans have only been here for a few million years. In other words, humans have only been on the earth for less than 0.01% of the earth's existance so worrying about astroids in the next 50 years is borderline hysterical!

I would be more worried about our consumption of resources and population explosion over the next 50 years long before I'd worry about an astroid.


RE: Cost
By masher2 (blog) on 2/20/2007 4:16:44 PM , Rating: 1
> "If you look at the 5 billion years the earth has been around, there have only been a small handful of "global killers" as far as we know"

We can't look the entire five billion years. Due to geologic considerations, we can really only look back a few hundred million years. And in that time period, we find only find a few true "global killers".

However, such massive strikes are not the largest concern. A 50 meter asteroid strike is due every thousand years or so...and that's large enough to destroy an entire city. An asteroid 250m in diameter (the size of Apophis, the potential strike in 2036) would release more energy than every nuclear bomb on earth and, if it struck the ocean, cause world-spanning tidal waves strong enough to decimate a third of the coastal cities on the planet.


RE: Cost
By mark2ft on 2/20/2007 6:46:26 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, to an extent it might be fear mongering. But what ulterior motives could these experts have?... It's not like the fear mongering of the Republican party in past times to label anyone who was against "freeing" Iraq as a terrorist/unpatriotic citizen. Why would scientific experts voice their concerns so strongly? Do you also think that global warming is another fear mongering tactic? I find your reasoning disturbing. I find it disturbing to realize that some people will always remain a sceptic, regardless mountains of scientific evidence and concerns. Think O.J.

Yes, wearing a bullet-proof vest all the time is retarded. But it depends. Some people are in situations that merit the use of bulletproof vests all the time, like police and military. Now you will probably respond to this, "yeah, but normal/public people are NOT fighting against armed criminals/soldiers everyday--so wearing bulletproof vests don't concern everyone."

And my response to that argument is this: an asteroid impact threat is extremely dangerous to the welfare of not only humans but of our planet Earth. We're talking about mass extinction events here. And unlike nuclear warfare, the causes of which would be difficult to pinpoint and counter, the threat of an asteroid impact is crystal clear and any effort to thwart it can be singularly concentrated on one thing--destruction of the asteroid .

I'm not as confident as you in the laws of randomness, so as to take a chance of getting hit by a random bullet with a smile. At least when I can avoid it with an intelligent plan. Just my 2 cents.


RE: Cost
By melgross on 2/21/2007 2:00:03 AM , Rating: 2
I suppose you never go to the doctor either because you can't see microbes?

Good thinking.


RE: Cost
By DocDraken on 2/20/2007 4:51:27 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Due to the creation of powerful telescopes, we can spot NEOs many years before impact or near impact.


LOL! Try taking a very powerful telescope and compare the field of view with a less powerful telescope. Yes, the FOV of the powerful one is of course smaller than the other one. In fact it's tiny compared to the need to look at the whole sky, so your argument is pretty poor.

The telescope coverage looking for NEOs is far from being complete. You need a LOT of telescopes spread out across the world scanning the sky all the time for that! The big telescopes are mostly used for other types of work.


RE: Cost
By masher2 (blog) on 2/20/2007 9:57:32 AM , Rating: 3
> "The chance of the asteroid hitting the earth is pretty darn slim."

1 in 45,000 roughly. However, if it does, the expected damage would be, conservatively, 20 trillion dollars, plus possibly 100 million deaths.

Excluding the cost in human life, the expected loss is therefore $20T/45,000 = $450M. If you factor in the worth of those lives-- far higher. That's just from this one object alone.

Given that, doesn't it make sense to start a small program now...given that anything we develop can not only be used against this asteroid, but any of the other countless millions of potential threats out there?


RE: Cost
By RogueSpear on 2/20/2007 11:18:53 AM , Rating: 2
and try to imagine what life would be like if you weren't among the 100 million or so that died.


RE: Cost
By cochy on 2/20/2007 2:18:41 PM , Rating: 2
Ahh took a while for someone to finally do the elementary math required to understand that caring about such a catastrophic event is very warranted. Someone said that:

quote:
I think it's pretty foolish to spend a lot of money to protect against an event where the odds are so huge against it ever happening.


This is obviously wrong, as the odds of a huge impact that would make the entire world's nuclear arsenal look like a fire cracker, is actually 100%. The odds of that happening in your lifetime is low, but to say that since it's low we should carry a proportional cost of the project is in my mind quite selfish and plain dumb.

Nature has a way of marginalizing the living species on this planet, as 99% of all species that have ever lived here are now extinct. Humans will be marginalized as well if people have a silly small minded vision of the potential magnitude of such an unlikely event


RE: Cost
By raionz on 2/20/2007 4:14:13 PM , Rating: 1
I cant help but think with all these random numbers of trillions and billions in cost if an asteriod hit, they try to say because of x risk, y cost should be justified.

so my car is worth 20 000. theres a risk it might be totalled someday. so i should get an insurance that covers me if a house collapse that hits a telephone pole that hit a tree that hit a trailer and the trailer falls on me. and even if that insurance cost 15000 its reasonable?

is that what these people are trying to say?

and comon, when its comes to governments, there are no 'small programs'


RE: Cost
By masher2 (blog) on 2/20/2007 4:20:22 PM , Rating: 2
> "is that what these people are trying to say?"

Not even close. The concept of statistical loss really isn't that difficult to understand. If you will lose $100 if a flipped coin lands on heads, then your expected loss is $50. Therefore, if you can spend $25 to avoid that loss, that's a wise move, likely to save you money.

That's what's being said here. The risk is low...but the costs are so truly staggering that a small program is cheap insurance, that will more than pay for itself.


RE: Cost
By melgross on 2/21/2007 1:58:45 AM , Rating: 2
Talk about sticking one's head in the sand!

This planet has been hit many times in the past, and will be hit again. It could be soon.

Better safe than sorry.

The meteor showers we have twice a year, are remnants of comets. If they were new comets, rather than ancient bits, we wouldn't be around today.

I would have preferred Bush to have spent money on this, than on his Iraq war.


LEts learn and not be taught
By Nik00117 on 2/20/2007 5:24:53 AM , Rating: 1
We've been taught in the past about ignoring warning signs generally is a bad idea...

I think if anythng we should have some type of defense... Why not lunch a big nuke at it and blow it into tinier pieces, your decreases the size of the big one, and the smaller ones will burn up more before they impact.




RE: LEts learn and not be taught
By mridion on 2/20/2007 6:46:52 AM , Rating: 1
I saw that in a movie once AND IT WORKED!


RE: LEts learn and not be taught
By timmiser on 2/20/2007 6:58:00 AM , Rating: 2
Did you ever notice that the earth never blew up into millions of little pieces when they exploded a big nuclear bomb on it? Of course not, the earth is too big but then they nuked that tiny Bikini island out there in the pacific but dang it, it's still there! Heck, they even blow up big nukes under ground (AKA-Bruce Willis style) in New Mexico and not even a tiny section of that state blew up. In fact, it doesn't even blow up the ground where it is buried...it just kind of ripples it.

Now, do you still think that sending a few nukes to an incoming asteroid is going to blow it up? It won't and the problem is that if it is small enough to be blown up by a nuclear device(s), it is probably too small to make it through our atmosphere and pose any threat in the first place. Granted, nobody really knows.

The reality is, we are still essentially sitting ducks in space. The only problem now is that we are sitting ducks with full knowledge of the danger but still can't do anything about it!

Fortunately, it can be tens of thousands of years before that day comes.


RE: LEts learn and not be taught
By JazzMang on 2/20/2007 7:10:18 AM , Rating: 2
However, a large enough force applied may be enough to deflect the asteroids trajectory.
Conversely, I am sure the asteroid has an incredible amount of momentum - it would take one hell of a nuke (or several) to make any change at all to the asteroid's path.


RE: LEts learn and not be taught
By cochy on 2/21/2007 4:37:31 AM , Rating: 2
Depending on the amount of lead time we have until impact, it probably won't take a lot of force to nudge an asteroid out of harms way. 10-20 years warning would be just fine for a tiny little nudge to move it widely off course from hitting the Earth. In fact some proposals involves just sending a shuttle size craft into close vicinity of the asteroid and letting the tiny gravitational pull from the shuttle to push it off course. No explosives necessary :P

The plans are pretty solid the problem is discovering these things with enough warning.


RE: LEts learn and not be taught
By clayclws on 2/20/2007 7:35:18 AM , Rating: 2
Earth's massive gravity force makes sure we don't bomb ourselves to shards. Asteroids however, travelling in vacuum, have little (in fact, almost none) gravity force. That's just one reason why those things in Deep Impact and Armageddon may work...MAY work. If the asteroid is as large as Earth, then May God Help Us...

Maybe they are developing some solar gun from the ISS that can fire any incoming apocalypse threat posed by asteroids.


By ThisSpaceForRent on 2/20/2007 8:16:55 AM , Rating: 2
I'm not trying to flame at all, but...I read your post and all I could say was, what? I'm assuming this post is a joke, right?


RE: LEts learn and not be taught
By timmiser on 2/20/2007 1:20:07 PM , Rating: 2
The point of my message was to point out that even if the asteroid is small as say 50 miles in diameter, nukes won't do any good. Despite what Hollywood might make us believe, we (us humans) don't have the ability to "blow up" something of that size.


By masher2 (blog) on 2/20/2007 1:49:20 PM , Rating: 3
> "even if the asteroid is small as say 50 miles in diameter..."

50 miles isn't a "small" asteroid...its enormous. Such a strike is expected less than once every billion years or so. That's ten times the diameter (or 1000 times the mass) of the largest asteroid known to ever strike the earth. And THAT one was large enough to wipe out the dinosaurs, and nearly all life on earth.

By far the biggest risk is from asteroids 100 meters across or less. Sounds small perhaps...but such a strike would be more powerful than the largest H-bomb ever detonated, and more than enough to wipe out your average city.


RE: LEts learn and not be taught
By masher2 (blog) on 2/20/2007 8:45:40 AM , Rating: 2
> "Did you ever notice that the earth never blew up into millions of little pieces when they exploded a big nuclear bomb on it?"

The earth is cemented together by a powerful gravitional field, a field which asteroids do not possess. Furthermore, carbonaceous asteroids (the most common type) are composed of extremely soft materials, compared to rock or metal.

The main problem with fragmenting an asteroid is not accomplishing the goal, but simply that it turns one large problem into several smaller ones. Its unlikely the asteroid would fragment into pieces small enough to burn up in the atmosphere, and therefore its unclear if this approach gains us anything.


RE: LEts learn and not be taught
By ralith on 2/20/2007 6:28:52 PM , Rating: 2
"Its unlikely the asteroid would fragment into pieces small enough to burn up in the atmosphere, and therefore its unclear if this approach gains us anything."

Sounds like spectulation, but I'm willing to read a source. BTW you can't use yourself as the source.

Also, care to explain how a nuc, which converts 30% to 50% of its energy to radiation (heat), can't vaporize a measely 100 meter asteroid. I couldn't find your "dust ball" post which you seem to think should explain it all away. Seems to me you either drill it in slowly or impact it in and you can utterly destroy the small ones. This wouldn't be a good idea for big'ins though.

Lastly, how do you know your gravity tractor isn't going to rip the asteriod apart leaving you with a shotgun instead of a single slug just like you say the nuc would?


By masher2 (blog) on 2/20/2007 7:18:24 PM , Rating: 3
> "care to explain how a nuc, which converts 30% to 50% of its energy to radiation (heat), can't vaporize a measely 100 meter asteroid..."

Without getting overly into fluid dynamics, without the containment of gravity and the pressure of an atmosphere, a blast shock wave is going to disperse a target more (and heat it less) than it would here on Earth. As part of the Orion project tests, a 1kg steel ball was coated with graphite, then subjected to the fireball of a nuclear blast. Afterwards, the ball was found several miles away...undamaged, except for the loss of most of the graphite coating. And that was in the earth's atmosphere.

I won't even get into the fact that the energy in even a 100MT explosion isn't enough to vaporize even a "measly" 100m asteroid. At the roughly 3g/cm^3 density of a carbonaceous asteroid, that's 1.5 million metric tons of matter. If its a stony or nickel-iron based-- a lot higher.

Furthermore, "vaporization" alone does little to help you. A hot ball of vapor is going to cool and condense under its self gravition back into a solid. Or rather, many smaller solid pieces, each of which is likely to be large enough to reach the earth's surface. We might gain a little from additional atmospheric ablative losses...but the more likely scenario is that we just turned a bullet into a shotgun blast. Instead of one large piece that might miss us, we have a lot of pieces, some of which will definitely hit.

I could give you sources for all this, but I'm chary of doing trivial Google searches for people. It's all common knowledge. The "nuclear" approach to avoiding an asteroid strike is not considered the most advantageous. If you really need a source, let me know and I'll dig a few up.

> "how do you know your gravity tractor isn't going to rip the asteriod apart..."

F = GMm r /| r |^3. The pull on a million+ ton asteroid from a satellite weighing a few tons at most is very, very slight.


Bruce Willis
By Hare on 2/20/2007 6:12:44 AM , Rating: 3
Hopefully Bruce Willis will still be alive in 2036.




RE: Bruce Willis
By ThisSpaceForRent on 2/20/2007 8:20:34 AM , Rating: 1
...or Chuck Norris.


RE: Bruce Willis
By marvdmartian on 2/20/2007 9:27:15 AM , Rating: 2
And isn't it amazing that this article's been up for a day already, and not one person has stated the obvious method for preventing earth's destruction by meteor/astroid strike??

WE NEED KLINGONS IN ORBIT AROUND URANUS!!! hehehe


RE: Bruce Willis
By UserDoesNotExist on 2/20/2007 10:14:31 AM , Rating: 2
When I first saw this article, I read it as "Google Wants U.N. to Take Action on Asteorid Threat" and thought, "Damn, Google sure is getting cocky nowadays."

But can we really afford to sacrifice a national treasure like Bruce Willis?


RE: Bruce Willis
By AstroCreep on 2/20/2007 10:36:47 AM , Rating: 2
Even if he's not, I'm all for them shooting Ben Affleck out to space to take care of it. :)
Hell, let's do it now; not like he has anything to do...


RE: Bruce Willis
By rtrski on 2/20/2007 2:16:02 PM , Rating: 3
Hey, Affleck's EGO can be the 'few ton mass' to gravitationally deflect the asteroid.

Or he could recite a few lines from "Jersey Girl" and the asteroid would spontaneously self-destruct in despair!


Wrong word
By JBird7986 on 2/20/2007 7:25:23 AM , Rating: 3
"For example, the U.S. Congress has assigned NASA the roll of actively searching for objects that are considered threatening."

Should be role.




RE: Wrong word
By Pitbulll0669 on 2/20/2007 8:01:55 AM , Rating: 2
Well HOPEFULLY by 2036 we will have advanced in Tech. enough to just use a Anit Grav. Gun or some thing.If you figure it like this in the last 50 years we went from a Computer that was 3 city blocks big to add 2+2 to say My maching with a Quad core in itthats like 500 years of tech in 50.so...we can hope that that kind of Advancement happens again.AND if so it means either we blow it up or the machines take over Ala Terminator Stle and we Die anyhow....LOL..


RE: Wrong word
By Martin Blank on 2/20/2007 11:52:12 AM , Rating: 2
ENIAC was 1800 square feet in 1944 and could perform at 5KHz working with 10-digit numbers.


RE: Wrong word
By UserDoesNotExist on 2/20/2007 3:33:35 PM , Rating: 2
Please, PLEASE tell me this post was a joke. I just heard a thousand dead English teachers roll in their graves.


Inevitable
By sladeviper on 2/20/2007 4:59:48 AM , Rating: 2
It's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

A little bump or nudge here, a little pull or push there, and BLAMMO!




RE: Inevitable
By iNGEN on 2/20/2007 2:11:43 PM , Rating: 2
I find it interesting everyone is concerned with the force necessary to effect a desirable change on a collision object. Has no one considered the incredible difficulty in guiding a physical interceptor to target? How do you even develop or test such a guidance system?


RE: Inevitable
By masher2 (blog) on 2/20/2007 3:12:23 PM , Rating: 2
We don't need to develop such a guidance system; we have already one. Intercepting an asteroid in space isn't difficult. In fact, we've already done it, under the guise of NASA's "Stardust" mission.


RE: Inevitable
By ralith on 2/20/2007 6:11:28 PM , Rating: 2
There's 2. Stardust went after a comet and NEAR landed on Eros. BTW intercepting anything in space that doesn't have a navigation becon is not as trivial as you make it out to be after all it takes rocket scientists and even they sometimes can't make it work 100% the way they wanted. But it is also not impossible.


Planning? What Planning?
By Brassbullet on 2/20/2007 11:46:23 AM , Rating: 2
Seriously though, how hard is it to throw some nukes on a Delta V and have at it. With a reasonable amount of time 1,000 megatons should be able to give even a large asteroid enough of a push to miss Earth.

Heck...with enough forewarning they could send me up and I could just push the asteroid away with my bare hands!




RE: Planning? What Planning?
By Martin Blank on 2/20/2007 11:59:45 AM , Rating: 2
Harder than you think. Aside from the problems described elsewhere in these comments with using explosives to deal with the issue, a thousand megatons of nuclear warheads is a lot bigger than you think. The biggest bomb in the US inventory is the B83 gravity bomb, with a yield of 2MT at maximum setting and a mass of about 1100kg.


RE: Planning? What Planning?
By Brassbullet on 2/20/2007 6:15:09 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know, a three-stager could be fairly quickly designed capable of 100+ Megatons, could be fielded on upcoming heavy-lift vehicles and travel multiple AUs.

Uncontrolled nuclear reactions have long been considered as a means of propultions for spacecraft, I don't see how a large chunk of space debris should be any different.


RE: Planning? What Planning?
By Brassbullet on 2/20/2007 6:18:41 PM , Rating: 2
brain fart: 'propulsion'


We should give it some thought
By cciesquare on 2/20/2007 5:18:12 AM , Rating: 2
Before September 11, 2001 there was a meeting that FEMA had organized to asked experts around the nation what three catastrophes can happen that would impact the nation. These were the three:

1) Terrorist attack in New York city. (happened)

2) Category 5 hurricane hits southeast breaking levies. (happened)

3) A big earth quake in San Francisco

Rumor has it that when experts brought up the topic of a large hurricane hitting the mississippi and breaking the levies officials smirked and did not take the probability of such events seriously. What's even more chilling is a few newspapers wrote about such events.
http://www.nola.com/hurricane/?/washingaway/

The next big event is going to be a Earthquake in San Francisco and we will NOT be prepared much like all the other events.

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/nation/1153609...

If none of these things happened 9/11, Katrina, I think a lot of people would have laughed at this story about a Meteor, but given what can and already has happened, you cant rule it out, and its better to have a plan then nothing at all.




By DarkPrime on 2/20/2007 8:11:14 AM , Rating: 2
To those who say a nuke may do nothing, that may not be true. Many asteroids rotate or spin at such frequencies that they are actually very brittle. For example, some of them, although made out of iron, could be broken a part with a shovel if someone could actually land on it to use one. That would mean a nuke could potentially decimate some asteroids. In the case of apophis, I believe it's relatively large and carbon based and not easily broken up.


By Tsuwamono on 2/20/2007 8:13:40 AM , Rating: 1
I agree man. I would much rather my country spend 10 billion on some kind of space defense and never use it then put 10 billion into our health care and then be like "Shit..." when we release that we have 2-3 years maybe to build something on that scale. 2-3 years could never be enough to build something on that scale unless we had Maj. Carter on our team lol.

PS i live in canada thats why i used the number 10 billion(our yearly surplus more or less) and why i used health care as an example.


By UserDoesNotExist on 2/20/2007 10:11:46 AM , Rating: 2
So (insert some secretive government agency here, usually FEMA or the CIA) convened some panel where experts were able to predict (insert natural disaster that happened recently) with unusual clarity (possibly aided by Nostradamus) and warned about (insert fear-mongering subject at hand).

Forgive me if I ask for evidence, but I've heard this story from far too many chain e-mails to take it seriously.

Even if your story is true, that still means absolutely nothing to the subject at hand. Notice that a meteorite isn't even mentioned, and I personally would put the annihilation of all life as something that "would impact the nation" pretty high on the list. Just because doubted events X and Y happen doesn't mean doubted event Z will happen. That's not science; that's superstition. I will fully admit that we as a nation were too naive in our assessment of invincibility to terrorist threats, and let's face it, New Orleans was a giant disaster waiting to happen (Who the HELL builds a city next to the coast below sea level? It's practically a recipe for failure.) But that does not mean that a meteorite will fall on us just because we're having a bad cosmic day.

I want to know when we as a united planet will start preparing for a hostile alien invasion force, since it's mathematically certain that there are millions of alien civilizations and at least one of them are going to be hostile. *sarcasm*


In other words...
By FITCamaro on 2/20/2007 12:14:14 PM , Rating: 2
The US will have to design, develop, and fund whatever happens for this. Like the rest of the UN's endeavors.

But I'm all for building a space defense system though thats built by the US. Then we control it and can use it to defend the planet, and our country. Of course then the rest of the UN will complain about it.




RE: In other words...
By Donkeyshins on 2/20/2007 12:52:51 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
But I'm all for building a space defense system though thats built by the US. Then we control it and can use it to defend the planet, and our country. Of course then the rest of the UN will complain about it.


Yes, and we all know how well the US has done over the last...oh...I don't know...four years in managing our military power responsibly.


RE: In other words...
By Brassbullet on 2/20/2007 6:03:17 PM , Rating: 2
The military responsibility is to the citizens of the United States. I would say that the last four years have been more effective than the previous four.


The one item missing
By Kragoth on 2/20/2007 10:30:20 PM , Rating: 2
Ok, there's been some interesting debate going on here but I really think that there's a massive problem with all of this. Currently the estimate is a 1 in 45,000 chance of hitting earth. So, we obviously do not know the exact path and speed of the item. So, what's to say if we go mess with the asteroid that we actually make it worse? We have 30 years before this thing hits and I agree that efforts should be made to deflect it should need be. But, for the time being I don't believe we can really do anything until we have more information on the path of the asteroid and we can acurately pin point its location. If we are not 100% accurate now there is no way we are going to be able to send an intercepting bomb/{insert some gravity effect here} because we will miss.

The UN should just wait until we can prove with a lot more accuracy what is really going to happen.




RE: The one item missing
By masher2 (blog) on 2/20/2007 11:42:22 PM , Rating: 3
> "So, what's to say if we go mess with the asteroid that we actually make it worse?"

Good question. The strike probability is due to the "error bars" on our knowing the exact vector of the asteroid, plus tiny calculation uncertainties of the gravitational effects of other large bodies in the solar system.

So, while we may not know exactly where the asteroid will be, 30 years in the future, we know if we push hard enough in direction X, those error bars will lie wholly outside a collision with the Earth.


SG-1?
By Mitch101 on 2/20/2007 3:57:35 PM , Rating: 2
What does Amanda Tapping of SG-1 think about this?

Didnt they already kill Apophis?




By montgom on 2/21/2007 4:55:22 PM , Rating: 2
The idea that the UN could do anything about anything is laughable. I would be very worried about the lack of "street" smarts this group of these scientists. they need to go back to the lab and leave the real world solutions for someone else.
Bob




We already have the answer
By cheesecurd on 2/20/2007 1:57:32 PM , Rating: 1
Is anyone else thinking we could really use the Deathstar right about now?




Nice
By Gigahertz19 on 2/20/07, Rating: -1
RE: Nice
By mattsimis on 2/20/2007 5:27:02 AM , Rating: 2
Thats a little chicken and egg isnt it?
We wont have a Earth to Near-Earth/Space "big frickin laser beam" system in 2036 unless we plan for and build it beforehand (ie now is good)!?


"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer

Related Articles
International Space Updates, January 2007
January 24, 2007, 5:11 PM













botimage
Copyright 2014 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki