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Number of Undetected ‘City Killer’ Asteroids ‘Very Large,’ House Panel Told

Sequestration, Bruce Willis, and even the pope: Challenges and strategies laid out by Obama's space team.

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

March 19, 2013 - 5:02 pm
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Bolden said identifying those rocks to be able to track them would require the help of a private contractor. Launching an infrared sensor into Venus’ orbit to monitor objects threatening the Earth would cost about three-quarters of a billion dollars.

“Our estimate right now is at the present budget levels… it will be 2030 before we’re able to reach the 90 percent level that was prescribed by Congress to detect and characterize those — 90 percent of the 140 meter class,” he said.

“What steps have we taken to bring countries together that could contribute those billions of dollars, as well as our own?” asked Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.). “…I would suggest especially including Russia in on this, and they may be able to make some major contributions, save us some money, and actually make a more effective system. And with that said, I’d like to include all countries, except China.”

Holdren said “a very powerful laser” could throw an asteroid off orbit, and other approaches “include hitting it with a very heavy impactor.”

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) tried to pin the asteroid threat on sequestration, asking witnesses if they felt less prepared to tackle objects hurtling through the atmosphere after the implementation of the Budget Control Act cuts.

“Yes, I am very concerned about the effects on sequestration on all of our ability to do what it is you ask us to do,” Bolden responded. “We all know what we’re facing today, and we’re all sitting here today as the Congress and the administration try to figure out sequestration, something that never should have happened, nobody planned to happen, but we’re facing it today.”

“Until the recent Russian impact, quite a few people thought those of us who were even aware of this or dare mention it were on the kooky side,” said Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.).

“A good segment of the population think it’s just a matter of calling Bruce Willis in and, you know, notwithstanding we don’t have a shuttle anymore. You know, that’s impossible,” Posey continued. “What would we do if you detected even a small one, like the one that detonated in Russia, headed for New York City in three weeks? What would we do? Bend over and what?”

“We are where we are today because, you know, you all told us to do something and it — and between the administration and the Congress, the funding to do that did not — the bottom line is always the funding did not come. And I don’t care whose fault it is or if it’s anybody’s fault,” Bolden said.

“And so the answer to you is if it’s coming in three weeks, pray,” the NASA chief continued. “…That’s not bad policy. I’m a practicing Episcopalian and I love what the pope’s doing right now, I’ll tell you. Things have happened. You got to pray.”

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Bridget Johnson is a career journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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All Comments   (42)
All Comments   (42)
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1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Maybe one will land on Washington DC and save the rest of us from oblivion.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If our divider in chief can just get his "scientists" to figure out a way to get asteroids/comets/space debris to target red states only, that would solve most of the problems barring his agenda being shoved down our throats.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"The number of undetected potential city killers is - is very large."

Then how do you know there are large numbers if they are undetected Mr.
Government genius?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If one assumes a normal distribution then the number found in a certain portion of the solar system predicts the number to be found (within a range of possible error) in the entire solar system. Nobody pretends it is exact, but it gives an estimate.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"OMG, the "asteroid threat!" That's funny.

Not as funny to the people of Chelyabinksk

"Asteroids have been hitting the planet for about four billion years - that is, during its entire existence. And NOW it's a "threat" and a "problem?" NOW we gotta DO SOMETHING?"

Humans are thicker on the ground than at any time in our existance. While urbanization puts more people on less ground, it also makes the numbers worse when you draw an unlucky number for a particular city.

"God, the egos on these people!"

Actually, I've met a number of the people studying the problem, and they are far more used to calculations than to inflating their egos, or expounding in public. In fact, that has been a problem in the past.

"They think they can control everything if the government spends enough money. "

Well, that was because it was politicians they were testifying to, and they are in political office themselves, so their assumptions were government from the start. That doesn't mean the rest of us have to do it "The NASA Way", and spend money for decades before we get anything back. There's the B612 Foundation, and several private firms, who will be launching satellites looking for asteroids by 2014. The for-profit groups intend to sell the water and carbon, etc., to those who want to build in Earth Orbit, or farther, without taking everything with them to do it. They expect mass return ratios of 100-1,000/1 to high-earth orbit.

So, Monster, ...it doesn't seem you are too informed on the possibilities. Try to do some research on it, ...OK?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Add up the number of people in Chelyabinsk who've died from radiation poisoning in the last 50 years and then add up the number of dead from asteroids globally in recorded history.

Then look up "probabilities: re: context and proportion."

People dote on BS more than they dote on actual dead. Actual dead aren't exotic enough.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well, the "Spring and Autumn Annals" of Chinese dynasties record 10s of thousands of deaths from cities being struck by rocks falling out of a clear sky, in one case igniting the city on fire, because of left over re-entry heat.

So even the nuclear history of Chelyabinsk doesn't come anywhere near what asteroids have done in recorded history. Like "Monster", you should read John Lewis's "Iron and Ice" for better perspective.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Egyptian tombs have men with the heads of birds. What's your point? I can't produce any statistics for how many men with bird's head walked around and you can't give me accurate scholarship or a body count on this issue. I can't eat "assume."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
My point is that the Spring and Autumn Annals are well kept records made directly from reports to the Emperor of the time, with the explicit purpose of allowing imperial policy to be determined from them, both then and in future reigns of Emperors who could look at the past better that way. Your implication is that just because these were records from 300AD, or from 1050 AD in someone else's civilization, that means they must counted as possibly inaccurate. The Chinese were running the most populous Empire on Earth for centuries before Rome. Their methods worked for centuries at a time, including the Spring and Autumn Annals. Why be so bigoted about it. Look them up. Then get "Iron & Ice", and educate yourself on the subject so you won't be blathering so much. One cannot eat either "assume", or "I will not believe it", but both may kill you just the same.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Chinese also recorded an asteroid in the sky around 450 AD. It is believe by some scientists now to have hit the Earth and been responsible for several years of unusually cold weather and crop failures that in part contributed to the collapse of the Roman Empire.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
OMG, the "asteroid threat!" That's funny. Asteroids have been hitting the planet for about four billion years - that is, during its entire existence. And NOW it's a "threat" and a "problem?" NOW we gotta DO SOMETHING? God, the egos on these people! They think they can control everything if the government spends enough money.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If you want a detection and possible deflection program/system that will actually work (and cost trillions less than NASA would blow on it), then open this entire thing up to bids from private industry. That *used* to be the American way of getting stuff done. Use the money being wasted at NASA on the non-existent problem of "Global Warming/Climate Change/Whatever It's Called This Week", and you'd likely end up with a fair chunk of change left over, too.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Asteroid Barry hit Washington DC head-on in 2008 although we had almost a year's warning, and the damage is into the trillions and still counting. Anything that can prevent a repeat is certainly welcome, we can't take much more of that.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
NASA would have more money for important matters, if it stopped indulging the eco-loon and Homer Simpson lookalike, James Hansen. NASA is an utterly discredited organisation, nowadays. The discovery that NASA's mission was to exaggerate muslims' sense of self-worth (pretty enhanced, already, I'd have thought) should have been the final nail in the NASA coffin.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
NASA is a drop in the bucket. Count up the climate change specific $ being spent by the gubmint (i.e. we taxpayers) outside NASA and it would make you sick. NOAA, NCAR, the forest service, you name it, they all get cash. To quote Carl Sagan -- "billions and billions." Every year.

For the amount of climate change cash spent in the past 20 years, the government could have sent up Bruce Willis to personally count every asteroid crossing within the habitable zone.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Exactly, gwilym. There's plenty of money in the NASA budget for this if they weren't wasting so much on their money on supporting the Global Warming cult.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There is a very easy answer to finding these asteroids. Let the amateur astronomers find them. Offer up a bounty to the finder for each one found and confirmed. This is much cheaper than having a bloated NASA try to find these rocks. I've been an amateur astronomer for many years now - to the uninformed they would be very surprised at the equipment and capabilities of some of these amateurs.

"Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) tried to pin the asteroid threat on sequestration..." and Harry Reid tried to pin the misfire of a mortar round on sequestration too. What's new? Anything and everything that happens from now on will be blamed on sequestration. Hey Harry - who's idea was that anyway? Oh - The Won's? I guess we can blame our lack of asteroid knowledge on The Won then?

Works for me!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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