Space & Astronomy
UN meeting tackles asteroid threats
By T.K. Randall
October 29, 2013 · 4 comments
An international effort will attempt to detect incoming threats from space. Image Credit: NASA/Don Davis
Distinguished scientists and astronauts met to discuss asteroid mitigation strategies on Friday.
Hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the event centered around developing and implementing an international contingency plan to defend the planet against an apocalyptic impact from an asteroid.
With an estimated 1 million asteroids in our vicinity with the potential to pose a danger to the Earth there is a pressing need for more effective detection methods. According to former astronaut Edward Lu there are 100 times more asteroids than our current detection methods are able to pick up. "Our challenge is to find these asteroids first, before they find us," he said.
Lu's organization, the B612 Foundation, is currently building an infrared space telescope called Sentinel that's goal will be to to detect threatening asteroids when it launches in 2018. If a deadly asteroid can be discovered far enough in advance of impact then it should be possible to launch a spacecraft to change the object's trajectory before it's too late.
Recent events such as the explosion of an asteroid over Chelyabinsk in Russia have helped to increase awareness of the issue. "It did make a difference in policymakers realizing that this is not just a science-fiction concept, or something that will happen in 100 or 500 years in the future," said former astronaut Thomas Jones. "The fact that it happened right now, I think, enforced the reality."
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