Experts Call on Senate for Support for Near-Earth Object Search

Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
Despite progress in tracking dangerous near-Earth asteroids that could wipe out humanity if headed our way, there is still a long way to go to safeguard the human race, engineers, scientists and astronauts told a Senate committee Wednesday.

Astronomers have a good handle on the number of potential devastating near Earth objects (NEOs), asteroids and other objects more than one kilometer in diameter with orbits that swing by our planet. The impact threat from those objects is rare, occurring once every 100,000 years or so.

But more support is needed to track smaller objects, on the order of 100 meters wide, which are more common and could strike the planet every 1,000 years, scientists said during a hearing on NEOs before the Senate's Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space.

"The impact of a 100-meter asteroid on Earth would cause significant damage," said Lindley Johnson, program manager of NASA's Near Earth Objects Observation Program to track the large objects. "And our systems are just not designed to find the small ones." [continued]


The problem is that of expressing urgency. The truth is, the threat of asteroid collisions and so on have always been with us, and the risk of such an impact is no different from 10, 20, 50, 100 years ago. What has changed recently to justify making such steps now? The difference is that we now have the potential capability of protecting ourselves from such impacts, but that is not a very good motivator for political backing.


Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
Less likely that a modest sized rock would inadvertently start World War III, more likely that it would initiate a global depression and (possibly) start a new Dark Age. It's curious that the cost of any realistic "collision avoidance" measures would be far, far, far greater than the cost of "detect 99.9% of possible NEOs within 5 years" measures.

Also missing: serious discussion of what it would take to detect potentially harmful 100+m diameter comets, whether from the EKB, Oort cloud, or interstellar space.
A Reaction To The 2003 Siberian "Meteor"

I think that this is the "typical" US reaction to a real and very threatening situation. The Admin spills a "half-truth", and deflects the attention from the reality of whats really going on.
US Spaceguard was very worried after the "Second Tunguska", which occurred in 2003. They detected the detonation, but not the incoming "object".
The Russians spilt the story, the Americans ignored it (I can only find a couple of articles in the mainstream even admitting it occurred!).
Look to the "Siberian Installation" and Europa S8 in Antarctica, for further developments.

Physics Forums Values

We Value Quality
• Topics based on mainstream science
• Proper English grammar and spelling
We Value Civility
• Positive and compassionate attitudes
• Patience while debating
We Value Productivity
• Disciplined to remain on-topic
• Recognition of own weaknesses
• Solo and co-op problem solving