Monday , December 6 2021

Astronaut Warns This Neglected NASA Telescope We Have The Best Chance To Prevent Death By Asteroid


A former NASA astronaut said his agency had the duty to protect civilians from killer asteroids, but failed to fulfill this obligation.

The threat of asteroid attacks may seem as abstract as the outer space itself. However, rarely, the risk is more fatal than the threat that some of the strongest nuclear weapons have.

Risk of death from above

In 1908, a space rock, estimated to be hundreds of meters in diameter, screamed the Earth's atmosphere at thousands of kilometers per hour and caused the foreign body to explode in Russia's remote Tunguska district with the power of a thermonuclear weapon.

The explosion blossomed almost twice the size of New York City.

More recently, in 2013, Chelyabinsk struck a meteorite about 70 meters above Russia.

The unbearable fireball shattered for miles for several kilometers and took more than 1,000 people to hospitals in several cities, several of which were seriously injured.

We know they're out.

NASA is aware of such risks – and also of deputies.

In 2005, Congress constituted one of the seven main objectives, which were 460 feet (140 meters) and larger and followed 90% of 90-degree asteroids, which could have led to a worse event than the Tunguska level. The deadline for this legally required target is 2020 & # 39 ;.

However, so far, telescopes on Earth and in space found less than a third of the objects in this World (NEOs), and NASA could not nearly reach its deadline.

Practically, according to a report by the White House in June 2018, tens of thousands of NEOs, large enough to destroy a city, need to be found.

The same report concludes that less than half of these areas will be placed by 2033, even with existing and planned facilities.

We have the technology to solve the problem

Russell "Rusty" Schweickart, a retired astronaut of space engineering flying to the Apollo 9 mission, says there is a solution waiting for this problem: NASA can launch the near-Earth Object Camera (NEOCam), a small infrared observatory. into space.

"A critical reconnaissance telescope to protect life on Earth and ready to go," Schweickart said on November 1 in Business Econometrics Summit Summit.

NEOCam designers led the task to NASA many times. The mission received several million dollars here and here to sustain its development in response to these proposals, but the agency denied full funding in any case because it was not the best fully science-oriented mission.

Schweickart, "For God's sake, finance it as a main program. Do not put it into another competition with science." Said. "This is a public security program."

NEOCam & # 39; How to hunt for asteroids?

Telescopes facing the right place at the right time can detect a point of light filtered through the darkness of that area. This allows scientists to calculate the mass, speed, orbit of a NEO, and ultimately the possibility of being buried in the Earth.

Little NEOs, though, are not very bright. This means that a telescope must be large, see most of the sky, and use highly advanced equipment to pick them up. This monster takes a very long time to build and calibrate telescopes and is expensive in a budget-breaking way.

Take, for example, the Great Synoptic Research Telescope (LSST), one of the best prospects of finding the world's best asteroids. The project broke in 2015 and its construction is expected to cost about half a billion dollars.

According to the current construction plan, until the end of 2021, it will not be fully operational or capable of achieving the 90 percent detection target set by the Congress until the mid-2030s.

LSST, like all ground-based observatories, comes with two major limitations.

First: göre You can't see asteroids near the sun. You've been blinded by the sky daha earlier Mark Sykes, director of the Planetary Science Institute, and a scientist from the NEOCam team spoke to Business Insider.

"We have to wait until we're out right now."

Sykes said the second deviation is that ground-based telescopes rely on visible light for detection. "If [an asteroid] Having a dark surface, it will be very difficult to see, "he said.

NEOCam examines these two problems in the space that Sykes calls üz the sky is not blind NE.

The telescope will also use an advanced, high-resolution infrared camera. Infrared is a longer wave of light that cannot be seen by my eyes, but if a source is strong enough – a roaring fire – we can feel the invisible light as warmth in our skin.

Asteroids emit infrared light to the sun, to radioactive elements, or both, even when the ground-based telescopes are too small or dark to see. This means that NEOCam can only see them with heat signatures.

The work of this approach has already been proven.

The most important example is the eight-year Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) telescope where NASA has found about 275 NEOs, including 50 potentially hazardous or 50 Asteroids or PHOs. points in orbit).

total amount of asteroid research(NASA / JPL-California Institute of Technology)

However, a less powerful telescope was not designed to hunt down an old camera (NEOCam & # 39; s need it) and only asteroids, with a smaller field of view, then a cryogenic cooling needed.

The telescope, now called NEOWISE, can terminate operations in December 2018.

NEOCam is the best emergency hope in the world for rapid detection of asteroids.

According to a recent study Journal of AstronomyNeither NEOCam nor the LSST alone would have been able to achieve 90 per cent of the conception of Congress – only by working together, research could have enabled observers to achieve that goal for a decade.

However, NEOCam offers significant improvements to the situation under the LSST.

In his last speech to the NASA, the NEOCam team offered to start at 2021 and propose two-thirds of missing objects or a program of the LSST up to ten years ago in an area of ​​460 feet (140 meters) larger in four years.

Less than 70 percent of all NEOs with 460 feet (140 meters) or greater were found, according to a report by the White House National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) in December 2016 .

This is approximately 25,000 asteroids and roughly 2,300 potentially dangerous quantities.

The NTSC report suggests that an orbiting telescope, such as NEOCam, can help resolve asteroids from a Tunguska-type event (occurring every 100 to 200 years) and a Chelyabinsk-type phenomenon that will collide with a force in the ground (each one occurs about once). ). Less than 10 years, less than 1 percent is located.

So why is NASA not fully financing NEOCam for the launch of 2024 if the most important priority for delivering a more capable backup for NEOWISE is?

& # 39; NASA has a responsibility to do this & # 39;

The team behind NEOCam helped NASA be deployed three times in 2006, 2010 and 2015, and three times NASA worked to fully finance the telescope.

The recent situation in which resources were denied, the source told Business Insider, said the proposal had no technical weaknesses. Instead, he had to try to squeeze a square peg into a round bureaucratic hole.

He said NASA was a part of Discovery and that he valued scientific principles without compromising humanity's security, and thus did not give $ 450 million in launching NEOCam and a launch rocket.

NASA chose two new space missions to explore the Solar System: Lucy, a probe to visit the herds of ancient asteroids lurking near Jupiter, and Psyche, who will collect the entire metal core of a dead planet in orbit.

For the part of Schweickart, he doesn't care about the distinction.

”NASA has a responsibility to do this, and it's not happening,“ he said. "Both NASA and Congress have to be included in the NASA budget."

NEOCam responded to the 2018 government funding bill by US $ 35 million, but fans say it is not enough to take the telescope to the launch pad.

"In the meantime, NEOCam is a specialist scientist and expert on the dangers posed by asteroids in the state of the zombie and the Institute of Technology in the World, Richard Binzel said in an e-mail to Business Insider that the world's inevitable he said that he waits in fine pluses.

Binzel is one of three scientists recently published in Space News to fully finance the project, even if they are not in the project team.

Binzel and others shared NEOCam's rocket journey with a $ 40 million US dollar ($ 160 million to $ 200 million) proposed by the House of Representatives for the planetary defense of NASA and a spacecraft called IMAP. they claim to be started. The agency is scheduled to start in 2024.

By working in coordination with ground-based telescopes, the NEOCam can achieve a perception of over 70 percent in four years, and the agency's goal is to achieve a detection target of 90 percent in less than 10 years.

This money is not easy to find. Binzel said the shortage of asteroid strikes makes her politically ruthless every year to finance other initiatives.

”But the consequences of being wrong are irresponsible when we can easily grasp our ability to acquire the necessary information,“ he said.

"We have to act like responsible adults, and we just have to do it." What do we expect? "

Now it's up to President Trump and his Congress.

Schweickart acknowledged that the budgeting and culture of NASA has focused on conducting top-level scientific research for decades, and it is not easy – whether it is the order of the Congress – or not.

“You're going upward. You're battling a pretty strong headache in NASA, ”he added, and funding everything to attract money from science budgets is not very popular. "However, government agencies do not have the freedom to demand an increase in their budgets."

Many years ago, Schweickart and other retired astronaut Ed Lu worked to solve the problem by the founding partner of the B612 Foundation, a non-governmental organization dedicated to developing NEO-determination skills.

However, the group laid the longest (and most expensive) idea, the Sentinel space telescope on the table to increase the chances of funding NEOCam. On October 29, the organization even announced its strong support for funding its full support to MPs.

People, together with NASA, do asteroid detection projects such as NEOCam.

In a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in June, about two-thirds of the 2,500 American adults surveyed said that asteroid monitoring was the top priority for NASA. (Only climate change monitoring was higher.)

It will be seen if the Trump administration will decide what to do with NEOCam in the next NASA budget and the Congress will authorize this fund.

Stephen Jurczyk, NASA's co-director, told the Business Insider at the Economist Space Summit.

"All this is the embargo until the president's budget is left to Congress."

Jurczyk acknowledged the challenge of NASA's mission to find dangerous asteroids and the internal changes needed to achieve this.

”To some extent, this is a cultural issue in which we have pure intelligence and a pure competitive mentality,“ he said.

"I think we're starting to evolve into a more varied and more balanced approach between pure science and other things we have to do."

The question is whether these changes will occur before the next Tunguska-type asteroid in the world. When a warning is given, we can fly to such a space stone and avoid a disaster, or if we don't have enough time to do so, we can try to get people out of harm.

This article was first published by Business Insider.

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