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Author Topic:   Alerting Earth of Near Earth Objects

Posts: 188
From: UK
Registered: Nov 2007

posted 12-18-2007 11:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Apollo14LMP   Click Here to Email Apollo14LMP     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I am studying Near Earth Objects as a second year university undergraduate...

This topic amazes me, and I am glad to be studying something that has some relationship to one of my hobbies.

I would be most keen to hear from, and have some input from the readers of the forum with regard to the following.

I would like to know your thoughts with regard to the communication of the possible threat of an NEO approaching the Earth.

Of course a whole number of websites from various organisations and governments exist, but I would be interested in any views that readers here may have...

Would you like to be made aware that there was a real risk of an NEO hitting the Earth,

How would you like to see this information placed into the public domain?

Do you think any of the suggested methods of interception (perhaps beyond us a little now) could ever be used to deflect or destroy an approaching NEO?



Posts: 507
From: Louisville CO US
Registered: Aug 2003

posted 12-18-2007 09:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for kyra   Click Here to Email kyra     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've often wondered if we would be told very far in advance of an imminent impact. I personally would rather know the truth, but knowing that would I still go to work and pay the mortgage if I knew I had two weeks left to live (or live in a world still recognizeable by me)? You could not know for sure until the day it happens. Human history does have patterns to draw from. All agendas and secrets of all governments would cease to have any meaning. A few would hold out thinking the United States must have some trick up its sleeve to deflect the NEO.

Obviously, if we were to have several weeks before an NEO impact there is nothing that could be done presently.

The hopeful part of a solution for the long term is that you do not have to significantly alter a path, and that the earlier action is taken the smaller the correction needs to be to avoid catastrophe.

On the flipside earlier detection and correction requires travelling further and with greater accuracy.

I've heard of ideas such as explosion deflection, huge solar sails, even "conventional rockets" for this purpose. Perhaps the new plasma rocket technology holds promise.

However, say if we were to succeed in deflecting a NEO with a 50% chance of Earth impact. How do we know we have not created a new orbit with a 99% chance of impact years later? Tinkering with these critters should not be left to the hands of reactionary types, but rather the best scientists skilled in astrodynamics and the employed deflection technology.

By the numbers we are nearly as safe as we were from this threat in the 1500's. But with knowledge comes responsibility. We really owe it to everything humankind has strived for to engineer a solution. If we can hit a moving comet (Temple 1) with a 400kg of mass, surely a deflection solution is not a wild dream.


Posts: 1219
From: Smithfield, Me, USA
Registered: Mar 2005

posted 12-19-2007 12:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MCroft04   Click Here to Email MCroft04     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A couple thoughts;

Clearly NEO's must be mapped and tracked, but we need to be careful how this information is shared with the public. We don't want to scare them into needless panic (as in some other "the sky is falling" issues that I won't mention). However, in case of a true emergency they would need to be informed. But too much information could be bad, especially when we know so little about the paths of these objects as they approach earth.

Secondly, any proposals to deflect NEO's must be scrutinized inside and out to ensure not to make the problem worse. I attended a talk several months ago on climate engineering, and regardless of whether or not you believe that humankind is causing global warming, some of the plans proposed (in many cases by leading well known scientists) just scares me to death.

Good luck.


Posts: 188
From: UK
Registered: Nov 2007

posted 12-19-2007 01:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Apollo14LMP   Click Here to Email Apollo14LMP     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you for your input.

The point you make about advance warning of a possible/imminent collision is a very interesting one.

It is something I will be writing about, the communications and ethics of publicising such an event will be key parts of my submission and as such I am keen to learn more about peoples views here.

The approach of a NEO is something well outside of our experience of life, it is not something that can easily be related to. The text of one of my books make reference to the radio broadcast "War of The Worlds" made by Orson Wells, in the United States in 1938, which caused a degree of panic.

It would be very difficult to anticipate or estimate the response to such news.

The amount of good amateur astronomers around today, and the quality of their work... would it be possible to keep the likelihood of such an event out of the public arena?

I'm not sure really if an event like this this could be kept a secret for very long.

Thanks again... you raise some very good points!


Posts: 4803
From: Brussels, Belgium
Registered: Jan 2001

posted 12-19-2007 01:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well officially, the U.S. Congress has declared that the general welfare and security of the United States require that the unique competence of NASA be directed to detecting, tracking, cataloguing, and characterizing Near-Earth Objects, asteroids and comets in order to provide warning and mitigation of the potential hazard of such Near-Earth Objects (NEO) to the Earth.

There are 2 things to think about:

First: Earth-based observatories only look out for NEO of a certain size.

That’s why the 30 meter small asteroid 2004 FH passed by Earth undetected... until 3 days before it passed close to our blue planet.

Second: Based on long-term orbital evolution studies of known NEOs, it is expected that a significant fraction of the NEO population has orbits that are mostly or completely inside the Earth's orbit - the so called Atens and Inner-Earth Objects (IEOs). Objects on such orbits are difficult or even impossible to detect with ground-based telescopes. Several space agencies are studying the feasibility of a space mission to search for Near Earth Objects which are difficult or even impossible to detect from ground-based observatories.

More info:

Gordon Reade
New Member


posted 12-29-2007 11:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gordon Reade   Click Here to Email Gordon Reade     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Suppose the NEO was large enough to destroy a large city and suppose it was headed for Mecca. You’d want advanced word on that not simply to evacuate the city but also to prevent World War 3. In a case like that the human repercussions would be worse than the natured disaster.

LCDR Scott Schneeweis
New Member


posted 01-31-2008 04:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LCDR Scott Schneeweis   Click Here to Email LCDR Scott Schneeweis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Science Daily: Could An Asteroid Hit Planet Earth, Again
To mark the 100th anniversary of the Tunguska event, when an exploding asteroid leveled 2000 square kilometers of Siberian forest, The Planetary Society today kicked off a year-long focus on Target Earth.

Target Earth will focus on a variety of NEO projects supported by The Planetary Society, including the Apophis Mission Design Competition, the Gene Shoemaker Near Earth Object Grants, NEO mission advocacy, and a one-hour HD TV "Daily Planet¯" special on asteroids being produced by Discovery Canada.

Scott Schneeweis


Posts: 559
From: washington dc usa
Registered: May 2004

posted 01-31-2008 05:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for thump   Click Here to Email thump     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Originally posted by Apollo14LMP:
I am studying Near Earth Objects as a second year university undergraduate...
The US House Committee on Science and Technology held a hearing in Nov. 2007 on NEO's. This site with the testimonies, including Rusty Schweickart's, may be helpful in your studies...

All times are CT (US)

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