Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Near Earth Objects: We're all gonna die... Or not?

Over the past century or so there have been times when the concern about extinction via collision with a large comet or asteroid has been real and present and other times when it's totally off the radar. In 1993, 1998, 2002, and again today, congress had hearings about the threat and possible scenarios to save the planet. The two movies in the 90's also got people pretty upset (Armageddon and Deep Impact). There are several scenarios for saving the planet, but just about all need a large lag time (like decades). The systems we have now for locating these NEOs do not reliably pick up ones that might wipe out a region. See this NASA site for more details.
My take on this: it's pretty likely that in the next hundred years we're going to be hit with something big enough to do some damage. Even if it lands in the ocean, the resulting waves might take out summer vacation spots. We need to be able to watch these things better and starting planning on how we would react. We also need to look at how they impact the moon, especially if we're going to build an outpost there. Can we catch one and mine it for metals that are becoming more scarce on earth? As always, more money for funding when we're already stretched thin. IMHO.
See: Annex B for a chart on "Impacts and Near Approaches".

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