New National Near Earth Object Preparedness Plan Released in the US
June 26, 2018 11:40 PM   Subscribe

In planetary defense news, a new National Near Earth Object Preparedness Plan has been released in the United States.

The report, titled "The National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan," [pdf] has five goals:

* enhance NEO detection, tracking, and characterization capabilities
* improve NEO modeling prediction, and information integration
* develop technologies for NEO deflection and disruption missions
* increase international cooperation on NEO preparation
* establish NEO impact emergency procedures [pdf] and action protocols

Defense against Near-Earth Objects is one possible mission of a proposed new sixth branch of the armed forces of the United States. Astrobiologist and former rocket scientist Keith Cowing of NASA Watch explains what a United States "Space Force" would mean.
posted by Rob Rockets (17 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
develop technologies for NEO deflection

I had thought this would require Bruce Willis, but apparently there's an app for that.
posted by flabdablet at 2:44 AM on June 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


Goal 6: convince us that the sky is falling.
posted by Molesome at 2:54 AM on June 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


develop technologies for NEO deflection

I thought usually he just, like, dodged
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:01 AM on June 27, 2018 [6 favorites]


NEO detection as a topic has got a lot of community attention recently, and it's nice to see some real money being assigned to it. I guess that the public attention has been focused somewhat by the recent observations of 99942 Apophis, which did the rounds through the media a few years ago and really will get scarily close in 2029. It's not so big, and it means something that something with the force of a dozen fusion bombs doesn't count as big, but it's a good example of the kind of object lucking out there unseen that might one day turn up at short notice.

(If you heard the name Apophis and immediately thought Stargate rather than Egyptian god, then you'd be absolutely correct)
posted by Eleven at 3:21 AM on June 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


We're deflecting these things toward Earth, right?
posted by um at 5:26 AM on June 27, 2018 [9 favorites]


@astrotweeps, a twitter account that features a different astronomer/planetary scientist every week, had Andy Rivkin on a month or so ago, and several of the threads focused on planetary defense. Link text is my brief paraphrase of the thread subject.

What kind of things are hitting Earth?
Lots of things. Some of them are bigger than others. What happens if it's really big?
Can we do anything about it?
More on planetary defense
Can we know where something is going to hit?
Impactor mitigation techniques, and DART
Didymos B (a potential target for DART)
posted by zamboni at 6:34 AM on June 27, 2018


Goal 6: convince us that the sky is falling.

Not convinced?

The side benefit of funding asteroid redirection is getting technology into space sooner. All of our nasty poisonous industry that hurts the environment can be done with total safety a few hundred miles away and let the surface here return to a pristine condition.
posted by sammyo at 6:52 AM on June 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


It seems like a major debate in the making, because a decision must be made to deflect based on size, and too big makes it impossible, and too small means brace for impact. Then there are the different probabilities of impact or miss, and the denials and deniers, and which companies will get the contracts. Finally, war will break out as computer models indicate which countries will get smashed, as they try to relocate the week before. It seems like cold war tactics will win the day, which is storing food in subways and underground bunkers for mass survival (because everyone knows we won't achieve a deflection because the money will secretly be deflected instead to sending the rich into space with all the good art and aged whisky, as an ark project under the military guise of asteroid deflection).
posted by Brian B. at 7:16 AM on June 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


I’m tickled that there is apparently someone at NASA who has “Planetary Defense Officer” on their business card.

Simultaneously, I am a quivering lump of jello realizing the certainty of this kind of event happening and the knowledge we can do nothing to prevent it.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:25 AM on June 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


I mean I’m all in favor of spending money now to try and problem solve this and I’m encouraged that we might have 20 years’ warning that somethings coming, but if we discovered that something today, the probability of getting our shit together collectively factoring in the general freak out in a society that races to completely own and deplete every natural resource to build underground cities for the rich, and the inevitable wars that would erupt to control those resources...

...maybe we’re better off not knowing and spending those billions on developing new ice cream flavor technology to enjoy while we’re blissfully ignorant.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:44 AM on June 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


The existence of all these potentially devastating NEOs constitutes a fairly convincing demonstration that truly malevolent aliens haven't come here so far, because it would have been trivial for them to deflect enough NEOs to hit us and destroy civilization and a whole lot more.
posted by jamjam at 11:20 AM on June 27, 2018


The "Impactor mitigation techniques" paper is an interesting read, and puts the lie to the idea that if we detected an incoming NEO that there wouldn't be anything we can do about it.

Basically, for small to medium size objects (under 300m dia.), our existing arsenal of ABMs and ICBMs could potentially be used to intercept the object with a nuclear weapon and break it into smaller pieces or (maybe) deflect it. They use in the paper the Minuteman III ICBM as a reference launch platform, which makes sense since there are a lot of them so you could potentially take multiple shots at it.

It would be a hell of a crash engineering project, but then again we'd also be highly motivated.

There are Russian (and possibly Chinese) ICBMs with significantly higher throw weight than the Minuteman, and thus more ΔV, that could also be used and exist in quantity in launch-ready configurations. I also wonder if some missile-derived spacelaunch platforms capable of Earth escape couldn't be turned back into a very high-ΔV missile by reintegrating a weapons bus onto the tuned-up civilian stages. (This is a treaty violation in normal circumstances; ICBMs capable of orbital velocities are prohibited by the 1967 treaty and only one has ever been known to have been built. So the question is basically, "how quickly could we build something that's normally really frowned upon?" My guess is "very quickly".)
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:23 AM on June 27, 2018


I, for one, welcome our potential new space friends. Planet survived these kinds of impacts before and things got better, presumably another would be much the same.
posted by GoblinHoney at 11:54 AM on June 27, 2018


>and things got better<
For the mammals at least ;)
posted by twidget at 12:30 PM on June 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


And the dinosaurs!
posted by sammyo at 1:08 PM on June 27, 2018


The side benefit of funding asteroid redirection is getting technology into space sooner.

That's more or less explicitly the goal, not a side benefit, right? I've never seen talk about this who doesn't already support more funding for space exploration and manned missions for Mars. I never see anyone worried about this saying NASA is misprioritizing it's scarce resources and should divert them to address this crisis. It's more "maybe we can sell space funding this way."

All of our nasty poisonous industry that hurts the environment can be done with total safety a few hundred miles away and let the surface here return to a pristine condition.

If we don't decide to deal with our nasty poisonous industry long before we have the technology to move it in space we're all pretty screwed. If we don't want to deal with it all the space technology won't make a bit of difference because the locally produced, no-transport-cost option will always be cheaper.
posted by mark k at 8:59 PM on June 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


Goal 6: convince us that the sky is falling.

As Nazis are fashionably in the news these days I'll leave this claimed deathbed confession here. That's not out-there enough? Then let me introduce you to people who claim this tech already exists.

If we don't decide to deal with our nasty poisonous industry long before we have the technology to move it in space

You'd need to have good-enough computer control, radiation-resistant and metals able to withstand 'ground contact' for decades (or the time to grind, smelt, and radiate away the process heat of a target 'roid). Things in ground contact have improved but mining/farming tools are made with replaceable parts. The replacement of the contact points should be an understandable limiter.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:08 AM on June 28, 2018


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