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International Organization To Assess Earth Defense From Space Dangers

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the raise-shields dept.

EU 93

arisvega writes in with a story about an international organization that is trying to come up with options to save the planet from a large asteroid or comet collision. "NEOShield is a new international project that will assess the threat posed by Near Earth Objects (NEO) and look at the best possible solutions for dealing with a big asteroid or comet on a collision (PDF) path with our planet. The effort is being led from the German space agency's (DLR) Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin, and had its kick-off meeting this week. It will draw on expertise from across Europe, Russia and the US. It's a major EU-funded initiative that will pull together all the latest science, initiate a fair few laboratory experiments and new modelling work, and then try to come to some definitive positions. Industrial partners, which include the German, British and French divisions of the big Astrium space company, will consider the engineering architecture required to deflect one of these bodies out of our path."

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93 comments

Armageddon! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38781525)

Drill & nuke!

Re:Armageddon! (5, Funny)

loustic (1577303) | more than 2 years ago | (#38781539)

We just need one more *orginization* to save us from typos and humanity is saved ...

Re:Armageddon! (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38781543)

Nuke it from orbit, it's the only way to be sure.

Oh, wait.

Re:Armageddon! (4, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 2 years ago | (#38782171)

Yep. And, early detection is most important. Waiting til the damned huge ass rock is a month away ensures that our best efforts will be worth shit. If we can get a team on the rock a year before impact, even a tiny deflection in it's course will work to avert disaster.

Of course, a nuke isn't necessary, if you get on the rock early enough. A few tons of thrust from a chemical rocket would be good enough. Or, a chemical bomb dropped down the well that you've drilled. Nukes are sexy, but not essential.

Re:Armageddon! (1)

bobstreo (1320787) | more than 2 years ago | (#38782471)

Or maybe just a solar sail deployed by a robot probe.

If you have enough warning, other than that, we'll need to start cloning Bruce Willis.

Re:Armageddon! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38783291)

You are forgetting that a clone would not have his wealth of expertise in oil drilling. No. The best option will be to cryo-freeze him, and melt him at the right time and place.

Re:Armageddon! (2)

bobamu (943639) | more than 2 years ago | (#38784803)

If we can clone Bruce Willis and make a frozen stockpile it means we can bombard the space disaster with a mass of ice cold bruce willi missiles until its velocity is changed (this may be known as the yippie ki yay effect) such that it is safely deflected back into space thus solving the problem for ever. Maybe I haven't thought this plan through, but it seems no less reasonable than any other plan that makes no sense.

Re:Armageddon! (1)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#38782801)

Agreed. It's been a while, but I believe we have a limited chance of detecting an asteroid before it comes too close to use a nuke.

Re:Armageddon! (2)

SlippyToad (240532) | more than 2 years ago | (#38783219)

believe we have a limited chance of detecting an asteroid before it comes too close to use a nuke.

I'm not sure you understand the issue. A nuke won't actually make an asteroid disappear in a ball of flame. This is not an episode of Star Wars where you fly through the debris of your kill. This is reality, where detonating an asteroid with a nuclear bomb just turns it into millions of pounds of rocks and dust that will hit the earth anyway. As it is the dust that will kill the whole planet's ecosystem, a nuke is the opposite of the right idea.

This is the society that in the last decade has discovered thousands of extrasolar planets. If we can't find and catalogue all of the near-earth threats in time to do something sane about them, we've got huge problems. The issue is not of technological capability. It is one of simple fucking priorities.

Re:Armageddon! (1)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#38783431)

The makeup of the asteroid determines whether or not we would use nukes. They come in a few different types, last I checked.

A solid core asteroid can, with enough planning and time, be deflected by a nuke (probably several). A rocky asteroid, not so much.

And yes, I do understand the issue.

Re:Armageddon! (1)

dissy (172727) | more than 2 years ago | (#38783893)

A gravity tractor approach can work against any type of asteroid, including the ones that are nothing more than a ball of dust so large that its own gravity is all that holds it together.

The tractor would need to fly out to the asteroid, be able to maneuver itself to stay in a relative position to it, and just keep itself there. It will slowly modify the course of the asteroid by pulling it in one direction or the other, or by speeding it up or slowing it down by being positioned in front or behind.

We pretty much have the components we need, a probe with maneuvering thrusters, and weight.
If we actually had a chance of pulling it off, multiple launches to assemble the final product out of earths gravity well won't be as much of an issue.

We have sent probes to comets before, so we have the ability to both get it there and have it maneuver around it. Different flight plan of course so likely a different design than our current ones, but as we don't have to land or anything fancy, it should be less complex than our current probes designed to return something from the comet (be it touch down, bounces off, fly through the tail, etc)

A gravity tractor just needs to hold itself in a relative position to the asteroid, and keep itself there. We can already do that for short time periods right now.
The most straight forward approach is to simply include more fuel. But money won't be infinite and that is far from the most efficient way we could go about working around that problem.

We have a pretty good chance of pulling off the actual design and more importantly construction of such a device. Technically even our current methods right now can do this, it would just be insanely expensive. But a proper design can fix a lot of that problem, if we get started on the design before the thing is needed.

It would be nice to have one built and sitting around on the ready, but there is no way we would waste the money needed using our current methods and designs.
If it was designed properly, where the cost is made as low as possible, we would know if that is even an option or not.

Re:Armageddon! (0)

SlippyToad (240532) | more than 2 years ago | (#38784461)

They come in a few different types, last I checked.

Last I checked, the law of gravity worked the same no matter what you are made of. A hammer made out of feathers is just as heavy as a hammer made out of the same mass of metal.

And it falls at the same rate.

Nuking asteroids is stupidity. No, I do not think you understand what the fuck you are talking about at all. This isn't a cartoon.

Re:Armageddon! (1, Flamebait)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#38784879)

And that's not a refutation of what I've said.

The issue with using nukes, as pointed out by yourself earlier, is that for rocky types of asteroids, they can break apart in a great number of pieces which will not burn up in atmosphere. However, for solid types, it may be possible to use a nuclear weapon to alter the trajectory of an oncoming asteroid; the point here is that the asteroid would absorb the vast majority of the energy, and not break apart; or if it does, it will be into several manageable pieces. Hence the importance of finding a threat early on, and making a decent plan.

"Last I checked, the law of gravity worked the same no matter what you are made of. A hammer made out of feathers is just as heavy as a hammer made out of the same mass of metal." -> Well, sort of. Gravity isn't 9.8 m / s^2 everywhere in the universe, but I'm sure you knew that; but then, you seem on a quest to troll, as opposed to learn, so feel free to misinterpret my former statement.

"And it falls at the same rate." -> Yes...and remind me, what does Gravity have to do with an Asteroid a fair ways away from the Earth? In this context (of using nuclear weapons to redirect an oncoming asteroid's trajectory, in case you forgot), I mean.

"Nuking asteroids is stupidity." -> It's considered a viable option by a number of scientists.

  "No, I do not think you understand what the fuck you are talking about at all." -> I can understand why you feel that way. Math is hard, isn't it?

"This isn't a cartoon." -> Scooby-dooby-do!

I believe we're done here.

Re:Armageddon! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38788811)

The issue with using nukes, as pointed out by yourself earlier, is that for rocky types of asteroids, they can break apart in a great number of pieces which will not burn up in atmosphere.

As long as the pieces are small enough, they will most certainly burn up. And the issue isn't whether they will burn up completely, but how much kinetic energy they deliver when they impact the surface. As long as they are small enough, there won't be enough energy in any individual strike to cause problems beyond a local scale.

However, for solid types, it may be possible to use a nuclear weapon to alter the trajectory of an oncoming asteroid

There are two ways to do this. One would be to attach the bomb to the object, in which case it would act like a single-push thruster (assuming it didn't just split the thing into chunks). Even if the thing was not spinning, tumbling, or otherwise rotating, this would not be a very effective means of altering its trajectory. You'd be better off just attaching a chemical rocket and providing constant thrust. Or better yet, an ion drive to provide long-term thrust... if you detect it far enough away.

The other way, which is more realistic, is to burst the nuke near the object. Now keep in mind that we won't have an atmosphere to provide pressure, so there will be no shockwave from the nuke. All you'll get is energy release in the form of radiation. So a nearby burst will have a very small pushing effect on the object, regardless of whether it's solid or not. In fact it would be more effective against a loose object than a dense one.

"Nuking asteroids is stupidity." -> It's considered a viable option by a number of scientists.

This isn't a science problem this is an Engineering problem.

Re:Armageddon! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38788747)

This is reality, where detonating an asteroid with a nuclear bomb just turns it into millions of pounds of rocks and dust that will hit the earth anyway. As it is the dust that will kill the whole planet's ecosystem, a nuke is the opposite of the right idea.

That's a great mix of science and bullshit you've got going on.

Yes, you're correct that a nuke would turn a solid core object into a shotgun blast of rubble.
No, you're not correct that the danger is from the dust flying through space. The dust you're thinking of is what gets kicked up into the atmosphere following an actual impact.

If you could reduce the solid object into rubble, yes it will still hit the atmosphere. But any of the individual pieces which are small enough will simply burn up before impact, and won't have any significant impact on the atmosphere or ecosystem.

As a practical experiment to demonstrate the principle, do this. Get a solid block of ice from your local grocery store. Set it on your kitchen counter. Get a second one, and use a hammer to smash it into pea-sized chunks. Leave this on another counter. Pay attention to which melts first- the solid block or the pile of rubble.... hint: it will be the rubble.

Having said all that, launching a nuke isn't really much of an option in the first place. Most of the destructive power from a nuke is actually a result of the shockwave caused when you detonate one within a pressurized environment, in our case the atmosphere. In space, there's no pressure so all you get is energy release in the form of radiation... which means other than irradiating it and possibly melting part of it due to the heat generated when the radiation hits the object, a nuke won't really do much at all. You would have to pull a Hollywood stunt and actually Bruce Willis into the object for an explosion to have any significant effect, and even then it wouldn't reduce it to rubble but more likely just split it into a few very large chunks.
And if it was not a single solid core object, but a collection of rubble or just a very low density, then we'd really be shit out of luck. Of course, it wouldn't have nearly as much of a chance to actually impact the planet, and more would burn up in the atmosphere.

In any event, the biggest issue with deflecting an asteroid is that they don't usually just float along. They spin and tumble. So attaching a thruster or a bomb would probably not be effective even ignoring all the other issues.

Re:Armageddon! (4, Funny)

SlippyToad (240532) | more than 2 years ago | (#38783177)

I think the nuke idea came from Edward Teller, who was basically a pyromaniac given a government grant.

He was just jazzed to blow up things, and applying gigantic nuclear explosions to meteorites would have given him jack-off material for the rest of his life.

Of course I think he's dead now, so we can do something that a sane person would.

Re:Armageddon! (1)

GIL_Dude (850471) | more than 2 years ago | (#38783269)

You may not be able to put much thrust on one of these objects. Many of them are "rubble piles" so the chemical rocket would just go right through. Others are indeed bound together, but without a high gravity to really cause heating, melting, etc. you still don't have an object that can take much delta-v. Perhaps instead a giant net with a solar sail? I don't know - smarter people than me will need to come up with the answer.

Re:Armageddon! (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 2 years ago | (#38783425)

In the case of a loose cluster of rubble, a bomb is a good idea - just not nuclear. Put the bomb near the center of the mess, back off, detonate it by radio signal, and watch the billiard ball effect. Instead of a full choke shotgun blast hitting the earth, we get a no-choke spread, with much of the blast missing the earth entirely. All the little bitty bits will just burn up in the atmosphere, larger bits make awesome fireworks, slightly larger bits might actually strike the earth, while the largest bits may need to be dealt with individually to prevent them hitting a population center.

Re:Armageddon! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38788931)

In the case of a loose cluster of rubble, a bomb is a good idea - just not nuclear. Put the bomb near the center of the mess, back off, detonate it by radio signal, and watch the billiard ball effect.

You'll be waiting a long time with little result. Most of the destructive force of any explosion is caused by the shockwave which is a result of having a heavy atmosphere. Setting off any type of bomb in a vacuum is going to have an effect similar to what happens if you light gunpowder on fire without packing it into some type of casing... you get some energy release in the form of heat radiation and that's about it... no boom. So while you might get a little bit of banging around from the heat pushing the pieces, it's not going to be much at all.
You're better off using a nuke. Again, there's no shockwave, but you get a lot more energy release in the form of heat and other radiation for the amount of mass you have to lift into orbit and deliver to target.

Instead of a full choke shotgun blast hitting the earth, we get a no-choke spread, with much of the blast missing the earth entirely.

It doesn't really matter how many of the pieces hit, what matters is how large they are.
If there's enough mass that even when broken into tiny pieces it would (for example) burn off the atmosphere, the object would be so massive we'd be pretty much fucked no matter what.

Re:Armageddon! (1)

flyneye (84093) | more than 2 years ago | (#38783739)

Will no one address Hawkings fear of disaster from invasion? I mean putting a nuke on an incoming spacecraft probably IS a better solution than an additional thrust rocket, in that case.
            Then the bedwetting recollection of our central massive multiplayer black hole at the center of it all , hurtling a star across the milkyway in a slick slingshot maneuver. What about being the path of a hole "Bowling for planets" with a star? How about another planet or someones stray moon? Maybe the possiblility of gravity slingshotting a moving object to an acceleration. Consider a dense comet coming at us at closer to light speed than most cohesive solids usually get or even a basketball sized hunk of some elemental concrete of rare description. Kinda makes our efforts seem silly when you figure the possible speed of various objects out there. How 'bout streaming radiation or noxious elemental clouds floating around on solar winds and gravitational slingshots that we may not have encountered yet. There may even be unknowns out there that don't even appear in the nightmares environmentalists have over natural occurrences like global warming/cooling/massaging/etc.

          Think I'm paranoid? Just send me some money and we'll soon see about that!

Re:Armageddon! (1)

davidbofinger (703269) | more than 2 years ago | (#38786695)

Of course, a nuke isn't necessary, if you get on the rock early enough. A few tons of thrust from a chemical rocket would be good enough. Or, a chemical bomb dropped down the well that you've drilled. Nukes are sexy, but not essential.

If it's small enough, and we see it far off, all sorts of things will work. But if it's large and close we need a nuke. So we shouldn't dismiss it. By this criterion, at least, nukes are better than non-nukes. Is there any way in which nukes are worse?

Basically the nuke, set off alongside and used to deflect rather than disrupt, solves more of the problem space for any given launch mass than anything else I've heard discussed. A lot of people mock nukes but as far as I can tell they remain the natural solution and the most practical one.

Re:Armageddon! (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | more than 2 years ago | (#38782903)

A nuke just turns a 50 caliber bullet into a 10 gauge shotgun load.

Spelling (1)

abelenky17 (548645) | more than 2 years ago | (#38781533)

"Orginization" (in the headline) should be spelled "Organization"

Re:Spelling (1)

dmbasso (1052166) | more than 2 years ago | (#38781629)

It is correct, imagine all the orgies that will take place once they announce the Earth will be destructed...

Re:Spelling (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#38781655)

...except when on the planet urth.

Re:Spelling (1)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38781665)

You have too admit it's orginal.

Re:Spelling (5, Funny)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 2 years ago | (#38781727)

"Orginization" (in the headline) should be spelled "Organization"

That's nothing. Look how they misspelled "Space Dragons".

Re:Spelling (2)

ozduo (2043408) | more than 2 years ago | (#38784253)

actually it should be spelt organisation,

COME ON! (0)

allaunjsilverfox2 (882195) | more than 2 years ago | (#38781541)

Does NO ONE do spell checking anymore? It takes 10 seconds!

Re:COME ON! (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#38781635)

high thruput. quality does not matter anymore, but output does.

we see it first-hand, here. demand to get something out 'quick' and all else be damned.

this is the back-story, whether they wanted it or not..

Re:COME ON! (1)

jcreus (2547928) | more than 2 years ago | (#38781929)

In related news... CmdrTaco comes back!

Re:COME ON! (2)

Brad1138 (590148) | more than 2 years ago | (#38781939)

I dual boot 7 & Mint. I use FF and Chrome in both (90%+ of the time Chrome in Mint). All have inline spell check. Only IE doesn't (or didn't last time I used it), but I would think IE usage is pretty low here. Is it that hard to figure out how to turn spell check on?

Re:COME ON! (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 2 years ago | (#38782193)

I dun't trun spalchek on. I perfer parsonalized pots.

NEOShield? That's all they could come up with? (4, Funny)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#38781565)

Seriously. Fiction is ripe with way better names than that. Next time just swipe one! I'd feel much safer in the hands of the Earth Defense Force.

Re:NEOShield? That's all they could come up with? (1)

Iceykitsune (1059892) | more than 2 years ago | (#38781603)

Just don't colonize mars...

Re:NEOShield? That's all they could come up with? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38781689)

I wonder if they will also enforce extraterrestrial copyright infringement... You never know!

Re:NEOShield? That's all they could come up with? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38781899)

The thick penis of a NEGROID WARRIOR penetrates many anuses.

Re:NEOShield? That's all they could come up with? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38782061)

Originally they wanted to call it S.W.O.R.D., then SHIELD, but ran in trouble with Marvel's lawyers. Now it's NEOShield(tm).

Re:NEOShield? That's all they could come up with? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38782323)

I think this is a subtle clue that whatever they concoct will be called agent Smith.

Re:NEOShield? That's all they could come up with? (1)

Ol Biscuitbarrel (1859702) | more than 2 years ago | (#38783237)

We need to be protected from the devastation wrought by more Keanu Reeves movies. I mean...whoa...

NEOShield, can just send the (3, Funny)

Dogbertius (1333565) | more than 2 years ago | (#38781571)

New Avengers, assemble!!!

Failing that, we still have Bruce Willis, Steve Buscemi, and Aerosmith.

DSO (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 2 years ago | (#38781705)

I, for one, welcome our Dangerous Space Overlords.

Connection to the B612 Foundation? (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 2 years ago | (#38781785)

Currently, the B612 Foundation http://www.b612foundation.org/b612/ [b612foundation.org] is interested in similar stuff but is an NGO. Although they have a much smaller budget (and to some extent do more in the way of lobbying rather than direct research) They have the virtue of having a much better name than "NEOShield." B612 is the name of the asteroid in "The Little Prince".

The group NEOshield from their reports seems to have correctly acknowledged that using a big nuke to just blow up an asteroid is not a good solution. However, it does seem like they aren't very sure what would be the actual best thing to concentrate on.

Re:Connection to the B612 Foundation? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38782021)

However, it does seem like they aren't very sure what would be the actual best thing to concentrate on.

orion [wikipedia.org] in reverse, of course. not one big nuke...

Re:Connection to the B612 Foundation? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38782587)

This is an EU operation.
That fact alone pretty much guarantees B612 will be more effective.

EU B612 (1)

andersh (229403) | more than 2 years ago | (#38785981)

It's a German lead European operation, that alone makes it more effective and stronger than anything from the US or B612.

Re:Connection to the B612 Foundation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38789657)

I work in space activities, but not in the quasimonopoly Astrium. To me B612 look far more serious than Neoshield -they have a roadmap. But because of Astrium lobbying capacity, I feel the funding will go to Neoshield...

Bruce Willis (2)

WoodburyMan (1288090) | more than 2 years ago | (#38781907)

Many not build upon the Hollywood's decades of pain staking research into the subject. Clearly the cheapest, quickest, and most effective manner is to send Bruce Willis into space with a nuke. Problem solved.

Re:Bruce Willis (1)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 2 years ago | (#38781933)

I for one say we just move the earth out of the way. Perhaps place it in a safer orbit away from all these space rocks.

Re:Bruce Willis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38782271)

>I for one say we just move the earth out of the way. Perhaps place it in a safer orbit

We'll have to do that later on anyhow, before the Sun expands into a red giant in a few billion years.

Re:Bruce Willis (1)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 2 years ago | (#38782307)

>I for one say we just move the earth out of the way. Perhaps place it in a safer orbit

We'll have to do that later on anyhow, before the Sun expands into a red giant in a few billion years.

Maybe we can force to sun to diet...

Re:Bruce Willis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38787413)

pain staking research

[insert vampire joke here]

Detection (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38781953)

If we want to avoid collisions like that the most important thing to work on would be the detection of potentially dangerous objects and the accurate prediction of their trajectories. Deflection techniques won't receive funding until we have proof that the danger is real, now if we know it 20-30 years in advance that will be enough time to develop and deploy some kind of deflection. Also, if we want these to work we need a lot of very accurate information of the target object. So while these plans are certainly interesting I believe expanding our knowledge of asteroids is helping much more in avoiding such a catastrophe in the future.

In other words (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38782075)

Hungry and out of work scientists create a reason to collect a paycheck yet not be expected to actually work for it.

Looking at the problem backwards. (4, Insightful)

wbr1 (2538558) | more than 2 years ago | (#38782131)

They are looking at the issue from the wrong direction. We should not work for ways to destroy or deflect an asteroid. There are many other things that can cause catastrophic loss of life on this planet, from 'mega-volcanoes', nuclear war, epidemic diseases, and yes even -gasp- climate change.

Instead of moving the danger of our path, we should be moving ourselves off the path of danger. We need an off site backup for humanity at least, if not as much of the biosphere as we could manage. Eventually, something WILL destroy 99.9% of life on Earth. It has happened before and will again, whether 10 years or 10,000 years from now.

Re:Looking at the problem backwards. (4, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38782287)

You realize, of course, that important backups never work when you need them.

We're doomed.

Re:Looking at the problem backwards. (3, Insightful)

TFAFalcon (1839122) | more than 2 years ago | (#38782599)

Any other location would be just as volnurable (or even more) to an asteroid as Earth is. So why not do both? Expand beyond Earth AND develop ways to stop asteroids? If one hits Earth it will be many thousands of years (even if we presume that it survives and absolutely everything goes well) before a colony would be capable of developing anything that could defend it from subsequent strikes.

Re:Looking at the problem backwards. (2)

Paradigm_Complex (968558) | more than 2 years ago | (#38782995)

It is significantly cheaper to patch security holes in our current human-sustaining ecosystem project than to try to start a new one from the ground up.

Re:Looking at the problem backwards. (1)

Ol Biscuitbarrel (1859702) | more than 2 years ago | (#38783263)

What's the environmental equivalent of a firewall, then? Should I buy Norton AntiDesertification 2012?

Re:Looking at the problem backwards. (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | more than 2 years ago | (#38783597)

No, because Norton will throw a little sand in the room and scream that yo need their product to protect against it.

ZoneAlarms Desert Defender free is much better.

Re:Looking at the problem backwards. (2)

pwandrew (2556768) | more than 2 years ago | (#38783071)

Actually this is a more immediate problem then you might think. I agree that we need start worrying about other problems (climate change, epidemic, ourselves) but there is still a definite risk of NEO's hitting Earth. NASA knows of plenty of risks and has them laid out in a chart here http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/risk/ [nasa.gov] . If my memory serves me right (this is based on information my roommate told me who worked for NASA at the time) there is an object that will pass by Earth late 2012 and when it does scientist will be able to get a very good picture of when they think it will hit Earth (I think the range of potential hit fates starts in 2020 and continues on from there but the likelihood is very very small any given year but still present). So yeah, a nice off world site would be nice but we really don't have the time/technology to do it right now (or potentially ever).

Re:Looking at the problem backwards. (1, Interesting)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38783529)

Yeah but if the Earth is only destroyed 10000 years from now than I don't really care. Also, it's impossible to move any significant portion of humanity out of Earth, a human just can't produce enough in their lifetime to get them a ticket out of here.

Re:Looking at the problem backwards. (2)

WillDraven (760005) | more than 2 years ago | (#38786319)

It's also impossible for a human to build a 747 from scratch starting with a pile of rocks and some sticks. We have this little thing called civilization that lets us coordinate on big projects. :-)

Re:Looking at the problem backwards. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38787053)

Too bad there's this little thing called "reality", eh Space Nutter?

Re:Looking at the problem backwards. (1)

izomiac (815208) | more than 2 years ago | (#38784587)

Well, historically, astronomic events have eradicated most life on Earth several times. It's probably the reason intelligent life was able to evolve, i.e. life never stays in an evolutionarily stable system [wikipedia.org] . As for how real the threat is... If the Tunguska Event [wikipedia.org] hadn't happened in one of the least populated areas of the planet then the loss of human life would have been tremendous (~15 Megaton explosion).

That said, we're defenseless against many astronomic events, such as a Gamma Ray Burst [wikipedia.org] (we get a decent hit every 5M years or so). As for terrestrial causes of mass loss of life, I'd imagine the economy is the foremost killer. It costs us an incredible number of life-years each year due to cheap food, stress, addiction, and poor access to healthcare. A poor person dying because they can't afford to safely heat their poorly insulated home in the winter is less glamorous than a coastal city being hit by a hurricane/tsunami/slowing rising sea levels, but mundane causes of death really add up. That might not fit everyone's idea of a catastrophe, but that's simply because it's constantly happening rather than being an uncommon and spectacular event.

Re:Looking at the problem backwards. (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#38804689)

As for terrestrial causes of mass loss of life, I'd imagine the economy is the foremost killer. It costs us an incredible number of life-years each year due to cheap food, stress, addiction, and poor access to healthcare.

Expensive food (that is, food expensive enough that it registers on developed world eaters' budgets) would be even a greater killer. Rather it's biological reasons (we tend to overeat in the presence of copious food or involve ourselves in stuff to the extent that we become stressed or addicted) for most of that stuff. And an ongoing inefficiency really doesn't count as a "catastrophe" especially when it has always been around and has improved in recent decades.

Currently Proposed Defense System (4, Funny)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | more than 2 years ago | (#38782217)

The are presently reviewing a Space Defense System that consists of a miles long series of defensive shields protecting a rail-mounted missile platform with gaps between the shields creating launch apertures. The missile platform can be operated remotely, much in the same way as current UAV drones. However, there is no missile guidance control and the display is very pixelated with only 1-bit color depth. if you ask me, they'll need to vastly improve the graphics if they want to see this proposal get accepted.

Re:Currently Proposed Defense System (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 2 years ago | (#38786401)

I saw a prototype of this system once. One major problem you didn't mention is that only one defensive missile can be in the atmosphere at a time. A second cannot be launched until the first either hits a bogey or escapes.

Oh, and the 1-bit problem? On the version I saw, they jazzed it up a bit with a dyed mask covering parts of the screen.

Re:Currently Proposed Defense System (1)

Billlagr (931034) | more than 2 years ago | (#38788423)

Of course, any would-be operators are required to have a bulging pocket of small change available and ready to go at a moment's notice.

Vogon constructor ships? (2)

CityZen (464761) | more than 2 years ago | (#38782295)

Just because it's improbable, doesn't mean it's impossible...

Act of God vs Alien Invasion (2)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 2 years ago | (#38782329)

While both scenarios are extremely improbable, I wonder what the odds are of being struck by an extinction level asteroid or comet vs being invaded or flat out destroyed by aliens. (I'm assuming that the alien invasion scenario probably hasn't happened in the past because there were no technological beings here for them to worry about.)

Re:Act of God vs Alien Invasion (3, Interesting)

dkf (304284) | more than 2 years ago | (#38783365)

While both scenarios are extremely improbable, I wonder what the odds are of being struck by an extinction level asteroid or comet vs being invaded or flat out destroyed by aliens.

On the one hand the likelihood of dino-killer-class impactor is pretty low (but non-zero), and on the other hand we've got zero evidence that there are aliens with the ability to get here at all. Hmm, won't worry too much about either then. The gripping hand is that the likelihood of a city-killer impactor is quite a lot higher: the last known one of that sort of scale was only around a century ago (and luckily hit Siberia, a long way from anywhere; a Tunguska-level hit to any modern city would be terrifying in the amount of destruction). It's also going to be a lot easier to deflect those smaller objects, provided we spot them early enough; with a decade's worth of heads up, we should be able to ensure total safety.

Re:Act of God vs Alien Invasion (1)

davidbofinger (703269) | more than 2 years ago | (#38786787)

While both scenarios are extremely improbable, I wonder what the odds are of being struck by an extinction level asteroid or comet vs being invaded or flat out destroyed by aliens.

We have a chance of stopping an extinction-level asteroid, if we see it with plenty of warning. Against starfaring aliens we have no realistic chance. Our best hope is to surrender, and hope their copy of To Serve Man was written by Jack Williamson rather than Damon Knight.

Meanwhile, back on Earth (0, Offtopic)

WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) | more than 2 years ago | (#38782411)

The Koch brothers roam free...

Re:Meanwhile, back on Earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38783005)

I thought that they were funding Herman Cain, who has turned out to be Stephen Coal Bear

re Title (1)

smart_ass (322852) | more than 2 years ago | (#38782433)

Who else read the title and got distracted thinking about alien attacks before they even got to the summary?

NEOShield (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | more than 2 years ago | (#38782481)

Is the best way to protect us from 'The One'.

"Do you hear that? It is the sound of inevitability. I'm going to enjoy watching you die, Mr. Asteroid."

Oh wait, wrong movie.

NEO's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38782879)

simply make the object pass through us of course.. use existing technologies to do it? no that would make sense.

Upgrade? (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 2 years ago | (#38784957)

International Organization To Assess Earth Defense From Space Dangers

Is it really time for me to upgrade my tin-foil hat again?

My favorite idea so far.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38785001)

A battery of earth-based mirrors focused on the asteroid creating a jet effect as the heated melting rock expels.

Wowsers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38786539)

Will Doctor Who do contract work for them, perchance?

does that include defense against aliens? (1)

youn (1516637) | more than 2 years ago | (#38786613)

I am disappointed, they do not say :p

Focus on Small Threats (1)

davidbofinger (703269) | more than 2 years ago | (#38786767)

From TFA:

Since NEOs in the size range 100 - 500 m are at least an order of magnitude more frequent than km-sized objects, it seems prudent to focus mitigation planning on the smaller size range

That's not very good thinking. What if the larger ones do much more damage?

Given the political and ethical problems associated with nuclear explosive technology, this method is generally considered appropriate only in extreme circumstances in which no other current mitigation option is viable (e.g. short warning time or NEO diameter larger than 1 km).

Ethical problems? With nuking an asteroid that was going to hit the earth? What are they?

It sounds like they are letting politics drive their key engineering decisions.

The approval of an internationally recognized decision-making authority would be an essential prerequisite to the deployment of powerful explosive devices on space missions.

I think if an asteroid were actually about to hit the earth most political problems would dissolve.

Asteroids Are Not the Threat (2)

ks*nut (985334) | more than 2 years ago | (#38787027)

Large Near Earth Asteroidss are not the real threat to our planet; large comets inbound from the Oort Cloud pose a much greater threat because the response time would be measured in months in a best-case scenario. While conjecture about whether we nuke or bump or tow Near Earth Asteroids is a wonderful way to gain funding for detection and mitigation programs the true threat is being ignored. The impacts of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter left little doubt of what would happen if Earth was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

About time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38787225)

If money wasn't such a problem (being the number one thing that is grinding all technological advancement to a halt), this would've been thought of much sooner, along with all the other potential dangers to the planet.

NEOs that are not asteroids or comets (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 2 years ago | (#38788155)

Residing in orbits not nearly as long elliptical. Coming to a theatre near you!

Kids on My Lawn! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38790551)

Sure. It's all fun and games, until someones gets a home planet poked out.
Metric x Imperial ? Matrix Imperial ? Baroque coding - and engineering - practices ? Positive gravity valued constants ? Craftsmens pride ? Guilds, even.
I'm sure it will be 'ass' successful, and safe, as their communal trade and economic systems, for example.
Maybe, first, they should set up an Anti-Earth-Defense-Missile Missile Defense system. Or more. Multiple footballs, like ICBM or sub launching proocol. Where's Laputa, when you need it?

Assessment completed... (1)

s_p_oneil (795792) | more than 2 years ago | (#38790633)

The "assessment" has been completed and - in a very objective way - has found that we need more funding.

Gaint Magnifying-'Glass' ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38790647)

Just make these really really really big magnifying fresnels, gas bubbles in magnetic fields ... whatever, and ablate the soft rocky ones. The nickel-irons can be 'mythbusted' out of the way, somehow fun.

Or, given sufficient forewarning, a world fancon can be organized in a parrallel orbit. Its mass would probably deflect the object all the way back. Or US tourists. They'd bring it all back in little pieces, as souvenirs - doing all the hard work for once.

Asteroid Gangs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38790765)

The trouble is, once they go back to their respective belts, and clouds, they stir up more company to come back he next time around.

How about cleaning up the room, I mean, that messy asteroid belt - not to mention those horrendous comet clouds, out there?

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