It Came From Above

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I decided that for this article, I’m going to take a risk and step outside of the box about a real threat.  I’m sure a lot of you have read or watched on television about the environment, abuse, war or a disease. I’m going to talk about an issue that may seem far fetched, but it’s still a threat to the human race.  I’m going to talk about looking for and monitoring near-Earth asteroids.  Space and spaceflight is a huge passion of mine since the loss of Teacher-in-Space participant Christa McAuliffe and the other crew of that ill-fated Challenger flight 30 years ago this past January.  There have been a few instances of a relatively small asteroid or meteor entering the atmosphere and there are two examples I’ll use.  The first happened in 1908 in Siberia and the other happened in Russia, 2013.

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With an rapidly growing population, an impact of an asteroid would have catastrophic effects globally. If the right sized asteroid hit earth with severe climate change, crop shortages, extinction of plants and animals and also humans.  According to an article written by Mirriam Kramer of space.com, back in 2013, the 10,000th near-earth asteroid was found.  “About 10 percent of those 10,000 discovered NEOs (Near Earth Objects) are larger than 3,300 feet (1km) in size.  If one of these large objects were to impact Earth, it could create global problems.”   I think it’s very important to invest money to keep an eye out of these large asteroids for the safety of us on this planet.  The other side of that is there will be people who will claim that we spend too much money on space and we need to worry about more imminent things here on Earth.   Well, the truth is that the United States alone spends more on foreign aid (1 percent of budget) than on space.  NASA’s budget alone is only ½ of 1 percent, and that money gets divided up among different agencies and programs, so money given to it’s space  monitoring programs are under funded.  One program called Scout has given the public a 5 day window before an asteroid could impact Earth. (Reference: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 01/07/2016)  That may not seem like a long period of time, but the 2013 asteroid that exploded in the skies of Chelyabinsk, Russia had no warning and that incident injured about 1,000 people. (Reference: CNN.com, 02/15/2013)

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NASA is working on a solution to the problem and will be put into practice on the first crewed flight of new Orion space capsule and the second flight of NASA’s new heavy duty rocket called the Space Launch System now scheduled for no later than 2023.  It’s part of the Asteroid Redirect Mission that will involve NASA launching a mission to a near-Earth asteroid and picking up a large bolder and moving it in the vicinity of the moon so astronauts can study and bring back samples.  This will give the agency practice in the remote chance we get better at detecting and getting better warnings before an asteroid hits Earth.  This mission will get more attention in the coming years, if it doesn’t get canceled by the incoming administration.  It may sound like science fiction, but we’re much farther along than when we were when the films “Armageddon” and “Deep Impact” were released.  NASA is best suited to fix the problem with the vast resources of the Federal government, but also, now that the private space companies like SpaceX are becoming more mature in experience in getting payloads to low-earth orbit, private space companies will be more likely to help if a threat happens as well.  Things we can do to combat this problem are very limited, but we can support our government and private space companies.  NASA definitely needs support and has done an horrible job in conveying to the public just how much their work affects our lives, and in this case can save our lives.  Go see a launch, visit the Kennedy Space Center, and write your congressman or congresswoman in support of NASA to ensure funding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

References:

 

Black, Phil & Milanova, Boriana & Smith-Park, Laura (2013 February 15) “Russian meteor blast             injures at least 1,000 people, authorities say.” Retrieved from:             http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/15/world/europe/russia-meteor-shower/index.html

 

Kramer, Miriam (2013 June 26) Asteroids Galore! 10,000th Near-Earth Object Discovered Retrieved       from: http://www.space.com/21735-asteroid-telescope-finds-10000-space-rock.html

 

NASA Office to Coordinate Asteroid Detection, Hazard Mitigation (2016 January 7)  Retrieved from:

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=4816

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