NASA Can't Pay For Killer Asteroid Hunt - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

3/6/07

NASA Can't Pay For Killer Asteroid Hunt

NASA officials say the space agency is capable of finding nearly all the asteroids that might pose a devastating hit to Earth, but there isn't enough money to pay for the task so it won't get done.

The cost to find at least 90 percent of the 20,000 potentially hazardous asteroids and comets by 2020 would be about $1 billion, according to a report NASA will release later this week. The report was previewed Monday at a Planetary Defense Conference in Washington.

Congress in 2005 asked NASA to come up with a plan to track most killer asteroids and propose how to deflect the potentially catastrophic ones.

"We know what to do, we just don't have the money," said Simon "Pete" Worden, director of NASA's Ames Research Center.

These are asteroids that are bigger than 460 feet in diameter - slightly smaller than the Superdome in New Orleans. They are a threat even if they don't hit Earth because if they explode while close enough - an event caused by heating in both the rock and the atmosphere - the devastation from the shockwaves is still immense. The explosion alone could have with the power of 100 million tons of dynamite, enough to devastate an entire state, such as Maryland, they said.

The agency is already tracking bigger objects, at least 3,300 feet in diameter, that could wipe out most life on Earth, much like what is theorized to have happened to dinosaurs 65 million years ago. But even that search, which has spotted 769 asteroids and comets - none of which is on course to hit Earth - is behind schedule. It's supposed to be complete by the end of next year.

NASA needs to do more to locate other smaller, but still potentially dangerous space bodies. While an Italian observatory is doing some work, the United States is the only government with an asteroid-tracking program, NASA said.

One solution would be to build a new ground telescope solely for the asteroid hunt, and piggyback that use with other agencies' telescopes for a total of $800 million. Another would be to launch a space infrared telescope that could do the job faster for $1.1 billion. But NASA program scientist Lindley Johnson said NASA and the White House called both those choices too costly.

A cheaper option would be to simply piggyback on other agencies' telescopes, a cost of about $300 million, also rejected, Johnson said.

"The decision of the agency is we just can't do anything about it right now," he added.

Earth got a scare in 2004, when initial readings suggested an 885-foot asteroid called 99942 Apophis seemed to have a chance of hitting Earth in 2029. But more observations showed that wouldn't happen. Scientists say there is a 1-in-45,000 chance that it could hit in 2036.

They think it would mostly likely strike the Pacific Ocean, which would cause a tsunami on the U.S. West Coast the size of the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean wave.

John Logsdon, space policy director at George Washington University, said a stepped-up search for such asteroids is needed.

"You can't deflect them if you can't find them," Logsdon said. "And we can't find things that can cause massive damage."

SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer

Associated Press

  • NewsMore>>

  • John Tyler receives donation for local lawyer to help upgrade helmets

    John Tyler receives donation for local lawyer to help upgrade helmets

    Friday, August 18 2017 11:14 PM EDT2017-08-19 03:14:50 GMT
    KLTV StaffKLTV Staff
    The John Tyler Lions always seem to look sharp in their uniforms. But thanks to East Texas lawyer Keith Miller, the Lions will look better and play safer. Helmets that advertise lowering the impact of hits, and possibly reduce the amount of concussions, come with a hefty price-tag. Miller's donation of 7,500 dollars, will go to help the lions cover that cost. "Keith Miller's been a big sponsor of John Tyler High School football program for years now.  I know it's...More >>
    The John Tyler Lions always seem to look sharp in their uniforms. But thanks to East Texas lawyer Keith Miller, the Lions will look better and play safer. Helmets that advertise lowering the impact of hits, and possibly reduce the amount of concussions, come with a hefty price-tag. Miller's donation of 7,500 dollars, will go to help the lions cover that cost. "Keith Miller's been a big sponsor of John Tyler High School football program for years now.  I know it's...More >>
  • Red Zone Rundown: Kilgore looks to a pair of Bulldogs speed to up offense

    Red Zone Rundown: Kilgore looks to a pair of Bulldogs speed to up offense

    Friday, August 18 2017 11:08 PM EDT2017-08-19 03:08:11 GMT
    KLTV StaffKLTV Staff
    The last time we talked about the Kilgore Bulldogs, quarterback Buddy Jackson and wide receiver Jonathan Shepherd were apart of the 800-meter relay team that won gold at the 2017 state track meet. But today they are back in the pads, and looking to turn their speed into touchdowns.  Competing in District 9-4A, Kilgore has always had a strong run game that helped them become the 2016 District Champs. However, in order to surpass their opponents this season, including Carthag...More >>
    The last time we talked about the Kilgore Bulldogs, quarterback Buddy Jackson and wide receiver Jonathan Shepherd were apart of the 800-meter relay team that won gold at the 2017 state track meet. But today they are back in the pads, and looking to turn their speed into touchdowns.  Competing in District 9-4A, Kilgore has always had a strong run game that helped them become the 2016 District Champs. However, in order to surpass their opponents this season, including Carthag...More >>
  • Arp ISD takes extra precautions after high levels of asbestos reported in city's water

    Arp ISD takes extra precautions after high levels of asbestos reported in city's water

    Friday, August 18 2017 10:43 PM EDT2017-08-19 02:43:21 GMT
    Sample of water taken from sink inside Arp Junior High School. (Source: KLTV News Staff)Sample of water taken from sink inside Arp Junior High School. (Source: KLTV News Staff)

    Holding up a sample of water collected from a sink at the Arp Junior High school, the district’s superintendent says “it looks like lake water.” 

    More >>

    Holding up a sample of water collected from a sink at the Arp Junior High school, the district’s superintendent says “it looks like lake water.” 

    More >>
Powered by Frankly