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The U.S. space organization does not have the monetary resources to track all of the flying objects that could pose a threat to Earth

Even though the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is able to detect and monitor most asteroids that are close enough in case of potential impact with Earth, the U.S. space organization lacks the proper funding to get it done within the deadline that Congress imposed in 2005.  Specifically, Congress wants NASA to detect 90% of the near-Earth objects (NEO) range from 140 meters in diameter up to more than a kilometer and a half.

The NASA report speculates there are around 20,000 asteroids and other flying objects that are currently in orbit somewhat close to the Earth.  But financial constraints will not allow NASA to detect, monitor, catalog and characterize all of the NEOs like Congress requested two years ago -- it is more likely that NASA will have to focus only on the flying objects that pose a real threat to Earth.

To accomplish the plan enacted by Congress by 2020 would force NASA to use ground-based telescopes that are used by other research and space agencies; the likely creation of a dedicated observatory designed specifically for tracking NEOs; and NASA to launch a space craft that would monitor a safety cushion around the Earth.  The report estimates that all of these projects would cost more than $1 billion, which is a high price that NASA cannot afford.

The Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii is one tool that is being used by three UK universities to help locate possible Earth-threatening asteroids.  The powerful telescope is able to detect objects from 300m in diameter, which is large enough to have a strong impact on the Earth.


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RE: Lack of Priorities
By SmokeRngs on 3/14/2007 1:52:53 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Thank Clinton and the American public. Clinton cancelled a lot of our next gen spacecraft plans and had the prototypes scrapped.


As much as I hate Bill Clinton, you're putting the blame in the wrong place. Congress drafts and approves the budget. A president may push for something to be included or removed from the budget, but it's Congress that has to write it in there. The president only signs or vetoes the budget passed by Congress.

I will agree that part of the problem is the citizens of the US. Most seem to be apathetic at best when it comes to anything involving space other than having satellites up there for communication or entertainment purposes. Without the public pushing Congress for increased funding for NASA, any funding increase will be hard fought and probably small.

I'm not sure the current setup concerning NASA is the best. I would like to see more private sector involvement and in more aspects than there currently is. This could increase funding for NASA outside the government mandated budget. It could also give a bit of a boost to the companies interested in civilian flight to space which would raise the public's awareness. This type of partnership wouldn't necessarily be limited to just the flight industry. I'm sure there are many other industries which see benefit to be able to travel to space or just some of the technology that NASA has.

Not all information and technology NASA has could be shared of course. There would be restrictions to many things but I think overall it would improve the efficiency of the space program and put it on a much faster track forward.


"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein

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