January 22, 2010
US Spends Only $4 Million Per Year On Asteroid Detection

Chump change.

WASHINGTON -- A new report from the National Research Council lays out options NASA could follow to detect more near-Earth objects (NEOs) asteroids and comets that could pose a hazard if they cross Earth's orbit. The report says the $4 million the U.S. spends annually to search for NEOs is insufficient to meet a congressionally mandated requirement to detect NEOs that could threaten Earth.

An asteroid could wipe out human civilization. Surely the threat warrants more than $4 million per year to detect a large asteroid or comet on a collision course with Earth.

Congress said go find potential threats. But didn't legislate the money to do the job.

Congress mandated in 2005 that NASA discover 90 percent of NEOs whose diameter is 140 meters or greater by 2020, and asked the National Research Council in 2008 to form a committee to determine the optimum approach to doing so. In an interim report released last year, the committee concluded that it was impossible for NASA to meet that goal, since Congress has not appropriated new funds for the survey nor has the administration asked for them.

A faster search is best done with space telescopes. But ground telescopes can also play an important role at lower cost.

In its final report, the committee lays out two approaches that would allow NASA to complete its goal soon after the 2020 deadline; the approach chosen would depend on the priority policymakers attach to spotting NEOs. If finishing NASA's survey as close as possible to the original 2020 deadline is considered most important, a mission using a space-based telescope conducted in concert with observations from a suitable ground-based telescope is the best approach, the report says. If conserving costs is deemed most important, the use of a ground-based telescope only is preferable.

I'd rather build up ground and space search capabilities than spend more on putting humans on a space station or to send more probes to the outer planets. I would also put asteroid search ahead of many other government programs in priority. How about you?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 January 22 09:36 PM  Dangers Asteroids

Nick G said at January 22, 2010 11:42 PM:

I agree. Of course, we should also put more money into hardening the grid against solar flare EMPs, a Yellowstone eruption, an LA or Madrid earthquake, and a ME war that halts oil exports.

We don't deal well with low probability, large impact(!) problems.

ziel said at January 23, 2010 9:11 AM:

Until we can actually do something about them, I think I'd rather not know.

PacRim Jim said at January 23, 2010 9:51 AM:

Don't worry, the asteroids will find us.

Bruce said at January 23, 2010 10:14 AM:

"We don't deal well with low probability, large impact(!) problems."

"We" prefer throwing trillions at non-existant problems (mythical global warming) to make us "feel like we are doing something" so conmen can make billions with carbon trading scams.

"We" prefer to build windmills instead of proper nuclear or gas power plants.

"We" prefer to outsource industry to China and India.

etc etc.

Michael L said at January 23, 2010 10:15 AM:

nah, how about we focus on real, vital human needs instead. Like closing the astronomy gap between America and Haiti, for example.

Bob Badour said at January 23, 2010 1:46 PM:
Until we can actually do something about them, I think I'd rather not know.

We could probably do something about them now, if we had enough forewarning. Suppose we need 15 years advance warning to get up the gumption to do something effective. Do you really want us to wait until 5 years before it hits us to start looking?

Michael L said at January 23, 2010 2:00 PM:

actually, as long as we are not talking about wipe out the biosphere events, we might be able to do "something" even in a matter of months. Like maybe stockpile foodstuffs, fuel and ammo for a period of time of very bad weather. Or maybe realign deployment of American military to make sure that the fallout of the crisis does not encourage other nations from making rash moves. Etc. Knowledge is better than ignorance. Then again, then you start having exciting questions like, Americans noticed the asteroid threat, so do we now tell that to Chinese, knowing that they can do all sorts of preparations too?

no i don't said at January 23, 2010 3:17 PM:

"Until we can actually do something about them, I think I'd rather not know."

Medieval way of thinking...

Fortunately not everybody likes to live on faith like ziel who seems to enjoy the products of science, but rejects its methods.

iconoclast said at January 24, 2010 9:30 AM:

I disagree. Much better to p$ss away trillions on purchasing union support than to, you know, actually do anything. After all, life without political power is not worth living.

Brent Emery Pieczynski said at January 27, 2010 7:02 AM:

When there's less of that overt-war then there will be more of the National-Budget left for space-exploration.

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