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space (spās) n. 1. space beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

prag·ma·tism (prgm-tzm) n. A way of approaching situations or solving problems that emphasizes practical applications and consequences.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

2004 MN4, Return of the Jedi

As I mentioned in Why we need to Get off this Rock, Asteroid MN4 is important to pay attention to. At the ISDC a couple of weeks ago, as reported in Sounding the Alarm, Cautiously, Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart, chairman of the B612 foundation, spoke about why we still need to monitor MN4.

Now, I don't know about all his ideas (read the paper for more details) but I agree that we need to monitor MN4. We need to monitor all NEOs.

Monitoring isn't enough, though. What do we do if we find a asteroid targeting our lovely blue planet? To quote the Ghostbusters, "Who you gonna call?" According to a Wire Magazine article, Congressman Backs Asteroid Agency,

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California) said in a phone interview on Friday that he supports former Apollo astronaut Russell Schweickart's proposal to create a federal asteroid-response agency. Rohrabacher said he will push Congress and the president to "take action on this by the end of the year."

I sure hope so. Somebody needs to pay attention to this. I wonder how private industry could handle this. I am sure it would be cheaper, but I am not sure if national security (Earth security?) can be handled by private industry. Private military is a scary prospect.

I would suggest a "matrix" organization that would be joined with NASA and DOD, but not under either one. Like a cross-disciplinary degree that takes the best from two departments. The Near Earth Asteroid Monitoring Agency (NEAMA), would compile data from astronomers (both amateur and professional), secure time on telescopes, partner with either NASA or DOD to build probes, transponders, or asteroid deflection rockets when needed.

Just my two cents (I don't have an ego about the name, though.)

Note: I have been out for the last few weeks, what with the end of school and everything. But know I am back, and I should be back to my normal posting schedule.


Michael Mealling said...

Why is it a military project? I see an asteroid like that with such close proximity as a resource to be exploited. If you already need to change its orbit and that orbit is already periodic with earth then that's a great mining and colonization resource. Land on it, mine the hell out it, refine those materials and when it stops back by in 20 years drop off all those nice raw materials...

I'd like to see some analysis of the orbital mechanics and energy involved in making that thing our 2nd moon.

Dan Schrimpsher said...

Hey, I like that. I wonder how the lagistics of it would work? Would the private company have to monitor the NEOs and pick on to bring into orbit? Or would a governement body still do the monitoring but put it out in the market place once it finds a threat?

Brian Dunbar said...

The only drawback Michael would be financing. Or at least financing the first one, assuming the idea is a wild success.

I'm not saying it won't be financed - it wasn't uncommon in the 19th century to finance (say) whaling expeditions that wouldn't see port (and thus profit) for several years. But twenty years is a long time in the finance world. You're aware of this of course.

Norden said...

"the risk calculated by Morrison and
Chapman - US citizens have a 1 in 20,000 chance of dying from an
asteroid/comet impact - the same risk as dying in a commercial airliner
crash " source

So your yearly, earthbound, uninsured flight is as risky as one you might be taking with insurance on a plane. Should we all be forced to carry Earth insurance? It could finance the intercepts.

Michael Mealling said...

Oh definitely. While I'm usually not a proponent of government funded programs, this strikes me as one of the better uses of a public/private mix of resources. Kind of like what the USG did with the Panama Canal (except we wouldn't give it away).

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