But they won't do it - There's almost nothing more scary than an asteroid impact--something that could turn us all instantly into ghosts (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to this show). Millions of years ago, TWO asteroids did in the dinosaurs--will something similar happen to us?
Something that many of us don't realize is that a few weeks ago, a huge asteroid--almost 20 feet wide and flying at almost 40,000 mph--flew only about 30,000 above Singapore. If it had impacted the city, it would have killed millions of people. Why don't we get warned about this so we can take cover? In a word, the problem is: MONEY. NASA is trying to persuade Congress to fund a program to deflect incoming space rocks, but so far, they've refused to act.In the October 26the edition of the New York Times, astronaut "Rusty" Schweickart writes, "Thanks to telescopes that can see ever smaller objects at ever greater distances, we can now predict dangerous asteroid impacts decades ahead of time. We can even use current space technology and fairly simple spacecraft to alter an asteroid's orbit enough to avoid a collision. We simply need to get this detection-and-deflection program up and running."
The Times quotes Schweickart as saying, "Our asteroid efforts may be the key to the survival of millions, if not our species. That's why planetary defense has occupied my work with two nonprofits over the past decade." He adds, "Happily, none of the 903 [asteroids] we've found so far seriously threaten an impact in the next 100 years."
It's not even expensive: Adding just $250 million to $300 million to NASA's budget over the next decade would allow them to do a complete inventory of incoming asteroids, as well as develop and test methods of deflecting them. After that, $50 to $70 million per year would keep the program up and running. This isn't a lot of money in government terms--in fact, it's a drop in the bucket compared to the trillions of dollars we are spending right now to fight two wars.
Schweickart says, "By preventing dangerous asteroid strikes, we can save millions of people, or even our entire species. And, as human beings, we can take responsibility for preserving this amazing evolutionary experiment of which we and all life on Earth are a part."
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