Asteroid experts plan privately funded Sentinel Space Telescope
Posted by Xeno on June 22, 2012
The nonprofit B612 Foundation says it’s planning the first privately funded deep-space mission, with the goal of launching an instrument known as the Sentinel Space Telescope to look for potentially hazardous asteroids from a vantage point inside Earth’s orbit around the sun.
The foundation, headed by former NASA astronaut Ed Lu, tipped its hand today in an advisory alerting journalists about a press conference to be conducted at 8:30 a.m. PT June 28 at the California Academy of Science’ Morrison Planetarium in San Francisco.
“We will create the first comprehensive dynamic map of our inner solar system showing the current and future locations and trajectories of Earth-crossing asteroids, paving the way to protect the Earth from future impacts and opening up the solar system to future exploration,” the advisory read.
Scheduled speakers include Lu as well as the foundation’s chairman emeritus, Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart; project architect Scott Hubbard, a Stanford professor who once served as NASA’s Mars czar; and mission director Harold Reitsema, former director of space science missions at Ball Aerospace.
A spokeswoman for the B612 Foundation, Diane Murphy, told me that the advisory was the only information being made public in advance of the press conference. That means it could be more than a week before we get formal word about the projected cost of the mission, its financial backers, projected launch date or other key details. However, the concept for the Sentinel Space Telescope has been percolating among asteroid-watchers and activists for years — providing an advance glimpse at what the project would entail. …
The B612 Foundation was established almost a decade ago to call attention to the potentially catastrophic threats posed by near-Earth objects. For example, an asteroid strike is thought to have led to the dinosaurs’ demise 65 million years ago, and as recently as 1908, a much smaller cosmic impact wiped out half a million acres of Siberian forest.
A comprehensive catalog of potentially threatening asteroids could provide more advance warning of potential threats, giving humanity more time to do something about them. …
NASA has made good progress in cataloging most of the large asteroids that could pose a world-ending threat, thanks to ground-based observations as well as space missions such as the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. Last year, the WISE mission’s science team estimated that more than 90 percent of the near-Earth asteroids wider than 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) had been found. However, scientists figure that so far they’ve been able to track less than a third of the near-Earth asteroids between 100 meters and a kilometer in width. Such asteroids could destroy a city or cause a “cosmic Katrina” if they hit just the wrong place.
Two Earth-crossing asteroids, 2005 YU55 and 2012 LZ1, sparked headlines in the past year when they made close encounters, and an other asteroids are due to come even closer in the years ahead. The most worrisome space rocks are those that spend much of their time interior to Earth’s orbit, where they can get lost in the sun’s glare. For that reason, the Sentinel mission’s planners want to put their telescope in a place where it can look out toward Earth, with the sun behind it. …
Save the Earth! We should not be fighting little wars for oil, we need to unite, to put our world wide combined intelligence and resources toward surviving the next planet killing asteroid. We are a sitting duck, pretty much defenseless against any aliens that would steer a large asteroid at us. Remember the warning shot they fired at Jupiter?
“The new Jupiter impact occurred on the anniversaries of the Apollo moon landing AND the Shoemaker Levy comet impact. … 40th anniversary of moon landing, to the day. … 15th anniversary of the Shoemaker-Levy impact, to the day. ” – glp
And what about Radivoje Lajic, whose house has been hit with meteorites six different times so far by aliens ? The message is clear, their aim is perfect and nothing we have yet could protect us.
The near-Earth asteroid 2011 AG5 currently has an impact probability of 1 in 625 for Feb. 5, 2040, said Donald Yeomans, head of the Near-Earth Object Observations Program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
This impact probability isn’t set in stone, however. So far, researchers have been able to watch the asteroid for just a short time — the first nine months of 2011 — and the numbers may change after further observation, Yeomans told SPACE.com.
One in 625 odds sound pretty good, until I consider that the odds of my fiance and I picking each other’s Tarot cards was 1 in 6,084, and that just happened. Gulp.