Asteroids pose threat to Earth, but NASA will not hunt them: REASON inside

New Delhi, News Nation Bureau | Updated : 06 July 2019, 08:27 AM
NASA & asteroids (File Photo)
NASA & asteroids (File Photo)

In space, there are millions of asteroids that exist. Well, major asteroids are no harm to us, but few can be. We all know that asteroids, if hit Earth, can bring massive destruction to the Earth and humans ofcourse. In the case, what should we do? Should we destroy those asteroids? Well, the various space agencies including NASA can develop such technologies that can destroy asteroids which pose danger to our planet. But, it won’t.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) says that it cannot afford to build a space telescope considered the fastest way to identify asteroids that might impact the Earth with unspeakable consequences.

It is to be noted that in 2015, the US space agency was given five years to identify 90% of near-Earth objects larger than 140 meters in diameter, which could bring disaster on Earth and hurt human civilization. However, NASA is not going to meet that deadline as the scientists believe that they have so far only identified about a third of the asteroids considered a threat.

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According to a report by Quartz, researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, led by principal investigator Amy Mainzer, developed a proposal for a space telescope called NEOCam that would use infrared sensors to find and measure near-Earth objects.

The National Academy of Sciences issued a report this spring concluding that NEOCam was the fastest way to meet the asteroid-hunting mandate. But NASA will not approve the project to begin development.

“The Planetary Defence Program at NASA does not currently have sufficient funding to approve development of a full space-based NEO survey mission as was proposed by the NEOCam project,” a NASA spokesperson told Quartz.

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The US space agency further said it was prioritizing funding for ground-based telescopes looking for asteroids, though the NAS report concluded that they would not fulfil its decision.

The agency is also funding the Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission (DART), which will pilot the technologies needed to do something about any threatening near-Earth objects. The NASA said the infrared telescope proposed for NEOCam could be ready for any future flight mission development effort.

MIT planetary scientist Richard Binzel said, “Although highly unlikely, being taken by surprise by a catastrophic asteroid impact that could have been detected would be an epic failure in the history of science.”

Richard Binzel further said, “We now have a capability to know what’s out there, meaning we have no excuse for an ongoing lack of knowledge.”

Binzel also added that the onus is now on Congress to increase NASA funding for planetary defence by $40 million annually, which would allow the agency to develop the spacecraft and eventually launch it in the years ahead.

NASA has asked White House for $1.6 billion in new funding to support a human return to the moon that could cost as much as $30 billion over the next five years. In contrast, the total cost of the NEOCam mission is estimated to be $500 to $600 million. But NASA funding is a fairly low priority in Washington, as Congress has yet to agree on even a broad outline for 2020 funding.

Interestingly, a national poll of Americans taken in May found 68% supported missions to find asteroids that might impact Earth, while just 23% thought a return to the moon would be a good idea. On the other hand, the space agency might not be interested in hunting asteroids.

First Published: Saturday, July 06, 2019 08:26 AM
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