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Russia's meteor  (Source: gannett-cdn.com)
NASA needs funding for small meteor defense

NASA told Congress to "pray" if a meteor similar to the one that hit Russia last month is ever three weeks away from the U.S.

NASA administrator Charles Bolden Jr. told Congress that the U.S. doesn't have the proper equipment to identify a small meteor (the size of Russia's meteor) in a House Committee hearing on Tuesday.

"If it's coming in three weeks ... pray," Bolden said. "The reason I can't do anything in the next three weeks is because for decades we have put it off. We are where we are today because, you know, you all told us to do something and between the administration and the Congress, the funding to do that did not - the bottom line is always the funding did not come."

The U.S. is able to detect larger meteors (and offset them a bit by crashing a spacecraft into them, thus slowing them down and changing their course) with plenty of in advance, but smaller objects are more difficult because the sun blinds satellites. That's precisely why Russia didn't see the meteor coming -- and neither did the U.S. 

Had the meteor not stayed intact for only seconds longer, it would have had the impact of 20 Hiroshima bombs once hitting Russia, according to a CBS News report

Donald Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office, said that the U.S. needs a space-based infrared telescope to see smaller objects coming. This particular telescope would work because the sun wouldn't be an issue in blocking sight of the objects. 

Yeomans also suggested ground-based wide field optical telescopes that could keep an eye on large parts of the sky at night. 

The space-based infrared telescope would cost "a few hundred million dollars."

However, government funding remains an issue. Bolden said NASA was budgeted only $20.5 million for its near-Earth object observation program for fiscal 2012. 

While NASA doesn't see any large meteors coming toward Earth in the foreseeable future (and current large meteor detection equipment would know decades in advance), small meteors need to be taken seriously as well to prevent destruction. 

The Chelyabinsk meteor exploded over Russia on February 15, 2013. It was estimated to be traveling at 40,000 MPH and was about 11,000 tonnes. 

Source: CBS News



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Nukes wouldn't help
By dxf2891 on 3/20/2013 3:09:49 PM , Rating: 1
A nuclear strike would not be a viable solution due to the radioactive fall out. Even a crashing rocket to alter trajectory would have to be massive and the falling debri would cause significant damage. The Russian meteorite was 11 tons and was moving at a rate of 45,000 mph. That is a bus moving faster that the speed of sound in one direction. If the trajectory isn't altered before it hits the atmosphere, enertia would keep it on the same course within a few hundred yards regardless of what we hit it with.




RE: Nukes wouldn't help
By Spuke on 3/20/2013 4:42:53 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
A nuclear strike would not be a viable solution due to the radioactive fall out.
Radioactive fallout? Where would that occur again?


RE: Nukes wouldn't help
By FaaR on 3/20/13, Rating: 0
RE: Nukes wouldn't help
By JediJeb on 3/20/2013 10:55:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The worst effects of a Soviet high-altitude test occurred on 22 October 1962, in ‘Operation K’ (ABM System A proof tests) when a 300 kt missile-warhead detonated near Dzhezkazgan at 290-km altitude. The EMP fused 570 km of overhead telephone line with a measured current of 2,500 A, started a fire that burned down the Karaganda power plant, and shut down 1,000-km of shallow-buried power cables between Aqmola and Almaty.


A nuke would do little unless exploded very near the surface of and incoming meteor, and if it was near the atmosphere when we detect it and tried to shoot it down looks like from past experience we would fry a huge amount of infrastructure on the ground. No telling what one large enough to actually deflect or destroy the incoming target would do to our current electronics considering how much more we use now versus 1962.


RE: Nukes wouldn't help
By Avatar28 on 3/21/2013 2:18:07 PM , Rating: 2
I think the whole point of this is that NASA is saying they need money to detect these sorts of things further out. If we could detect it a few weeks ahead of time that's enough to potentially push it off course enough to miss or to destroy it. Of course, there's still the matter of actually having something capable of getting to it quickly enough but that's a separate matter.


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