News / Science & Technology

NASA Explores Technology to Face Asteroid Danger

Robotics and advanced SEP technologies like this artist's concept of an SEP-based spacecraft could one day find, rendezvous with, capture and relocate an asteroid to a stable point in the lunar vicinity.
Robotics and advanced SEP technologies like this artist's concept of an SEP-based spacecraft could one day find, rendezvous with, capture and relocate an asteroid to a stable point in the lunar vicinity.
Suzanne Presto
Asteroids - those millions of chunks of space rock, large and small, that drift and spin across our solar system - hold promise for space explorers even as they pose a threat to us on Earth.

When NASA Administrator Charles Bolden discussed the U.S. space agency's proposed 2014 budget with lawmakers in late April, he highlighted a new mission - a plan to capture an asteroid in deep space and bring it to the vicinity of the moon, where astronauts could later explore it.

"We are developing a process or technology that will come forward in the asteroid retrieval mission that will demonstrate that humans can, in fact, alter the path of an asteroid that's headed toward Earth," he said.

A key part of the planned mission, Bolden underscored, is to show that an asteroid's path can be diverted.

Watch Asteroid Initiative Animation (Courtesy: NASA)
 
Asteroid Threats
 
Earlier this year, a small meteor unexpectedly exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, and produced a shockwave that shattered thousands of windows and injured more than 1,000 people. The same day, a well-tracked, 45-meter-wide asteroid called 2012 DA14 whizzed safely past Earth, closer than our geosynchronous satellites. It was a record close approach for something that size.

Experts say asteroids larger than 100 meters across strike the Earth's surface, on average, about once every 10,000 years, and there are no records of an asteroid killing anyone in modern history.

John Holdren, the U.S. president's assistant for science and technology, discussed asteroid threats at a hearing on Capitol Hill in March. He told lawmakers that given the rarity of large asteroid impacts, the potential loss of human life from such an event works out to fewer than 100 people per year, which he compared to 5 million deaths each year from tobacco.

"It doesn't look like a very big threat," Holdren said. "But, of course, that is not really a meaningful way to present a risk of this character, where you're talking about a low probability of a very big disaster, and in those sorts of situations, we tend to invest in insurance to reduce the likelihood of a disaster we would regard as intolerable."

Insurance, of course, was not an option for dinosaurs, which are believed to have been killed off 65 million years ago after a 10-kilometer-wide asteroid crashed into the Earth.

Holdren says an asteroid even a fraction of that size could undo life as we know it. "A one-kilometer asteroid would be carrying energy in the range of tens of millions of megatons.  That is as much or more energy as was in the combined arsenals of the United States and the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War," he said. "An asteroid of that size, a kilometer or bigger, could plausibly end civilization." 
 
Tracking Asteroids
 
NASA estimates it has catalogued 95 percent of near-Earth asteroids that are wider than one kilometer. It says it has found nothing this size that poses a threat to our planet in the foreseeable future.

The space agency is now working to detect and track much smaller near-Earth objects, ones that are 140 meters in diameter or larger. The goal is to identify 90 percent of those by 2020.

That's where Lindley Johnson comes in. He is the program executive for the Near-Earth Objects Program at NASA headquarters in Washington. His office coordinates NASA-sponsored efforts to detect and track potentially hazardous asteroids, as well as comets.

"The first and most important thing, of course, is having the capability to find them early," Johnson explained. "You can't do anything about them unless you know that there is one out there that is a threat. So, that's our primary emphasis - finding them. If we do that job well, then the incidence of us actually being impacted are pretty rare." 
 
International Cooperation
 
Johnson was among hundreds of scientists who attended a United Nations conference on outer space in Vienna earlier this year. His working group recommended creating an international asteroid-warning network and a forum that brings various space agencies together to discuss collaborative approaches to counter dangerous asteroids.

Johnson said they also recommended bolstering disaster response, so national and international agencies could warn people about a potential strike, just as they do about hurricanes or tsunamis. Part of the reason people were injured in Chelyabinsk, he said, is that they did not know what to expect.  

"They didn't realize that with a meteor coming in like that, that there would be such a shockwave that windows would be broken out, so they saw the bright flash and ran to the window and were looking at the contrail when the shockwave hit," he said.

As of late April, nearly 10,000 near-Earth objects had been discovered, with about 1,400 of them classified as potentially hazardous.

Funding for NASA's Near-Earth Objects Program is about $20 million per year, reflecting a five-fold increase during President Barack Obama's administration. 

You May Like

Multimedia US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Inocencio S. Santillan C. from: Huaraz Peru
May 03, 2013 8:18 PM
It is a fantastic program for to be fishing a asteroid, show us the adavnced technology in the planet, for my so fantastic and nice from American technology

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid