Stop Asteroids? When All Else Fails, Do It Yourself
How far would you be willing to go to save Earth from an asteroid threat? If this question calls up images of the movie Armegeddon, it should: Some people are willing to go pretty darned far to stop that killer asteroid. Although Armeggedon’s scientific accuracy might have been questionable, the real truth of stopping asteroids is that you don’t have to be part of a smash-hit Hollywood blockbuster to do it. You just need funding and the willingness to make that your full-time job.
The first step in stopping the next extinction-event-inducing asteroid is admitting that the threat exists and developing the ability to detect them months or even years in advance. NASA will sometimes announce the discovery of an asteroid that is about to buzz Earth only days before it actually does. Sometimes it’s even waited to announce that discovery until the asteroid has already passed. I’m frankly surprised that conspiracy theorists haven’t jumped all over this one. It’s like NASA doesn’t want us to panic when it knows perfectly well that it can’t even stop a close call.
The B612 Foundation deserves credit for at least trying to find a solution to the problem of detecting near-Earth objects that intersect Earth’s orbit. It’s been working on a telescope that it plans to launch into a solar orbit in order to track asteroids. Even better would be a constellation of telescopes to add the capacity to watch multiple regions of the inner solar system at the same time. Like many private space ventures, though, the B612 Foundation has been wrestling with funding to the point where its founders – both astronauts – have had to auction off space memorabilia on eBay in order to keep it going. It will be doing well if it can launch the one telescope.
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