Monday, March 12, 2007

you're with us or you're with the asteroids

About 20,000 asteroids and comets orbiting close to our planet could deliver blows ranging from destroying cities to ending all life.

this is a funny, funny story. well, not the destroying cities part. or that "ending all life" thing. those would be bad. often i'm fuzzy on the whole good-bad thing, but there seems to be very little ambiguity in this case.

no, the funny part is, our government doesn't have a billion dollars to spare for tracking killer asteroids. as one rocket scientist put it, “Should one nation, the United States, be responsible for the entire planet?”
William Ailor of the Aerospace Corporation, a not-for-profit Air Force research group that sponsored the planetary defense conference, said the problem of finding killer asteroids could be solved more easily if more countries were involved. Interest is growing, he said, noting that the European Space Agency is considering a mission called Don Quijote to test ways to deflect an asteroid.
don quixote, as some might innocently observe, was disparaged for tilting at windmills. that analogy segueways into the existence of an actual industry devoted to tracking and deflecting imminent meteor strikes. they even have their own trade show:

The objective of the conference is to develop a white paper that assesses the current state of our ability to discover and track near-Earth objects (NEOs—objects that could possibly impact Earth) and our ability to successfully deflect a threatening object should one be detected.
and there, literally, is the money quote. it will be significantly more challenging to deflect a "threatening object" if it is detected only after striking the earth. it'll probably cost more, too.

but that is SOP for our "we hate government" government. global warming? no such thing. hurricane katrina? never heard of it. some schmoe in the middle east with a slingshot? here's $100 billion for a fun-filled year of wanton slaughter. yay, government!

meanwhile, there's an asteroid out there with the name of every earth inhabitant on it. can we detect it and deflect it? we don't know, because the price is just too high to find out.
Building a dedicated observatory for finding and tracking hazardous bodies and launching a spacecraft to observe the space around Earth would cost more than $1 billion that the agency does not have.
this plea is not addressed to republicans, who don't believe in science anyway. note to democrats: peel off a billion dollar bill and get busy...quick.


Bon said...

I want something new to read!!

spaceneedl said...

there's lots of hidden meaning in asteroids. did you discover it all? is it really time to move on?