Pella Chronicle

CNHI/Southeast Iowa

February 15, 2013

Slate: NASA must do more to prepare for catastrophic asteroids

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

Yes, the risk of impact is low. However, the U.S. government spends plenty of money guarding against the prospect of other low-probability events. Despite evidence that full-body scanners neither work as well, nor are as safe, as claimed, the TSA has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on them, against the low probability that someone would try and smuggle something nefarious onto an airplane that previous security measures would have missed. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency in the Pentagon, the National Nuclear Security Administration in the Department of Energy, and the Department of Homeland Security's Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, among other government agencies, collectively spend billions annually countering the very low-probability event of nuclear terrorism. None of these events, however horrific, have the potential to cause damage on the scale that a celestial body impacting Earth could. Only a full-scale nuclear war with Russia might approach the damage of a large asteroid.

It is far easier to quantify the risk from asteroids that have already been tracked than from something as nebulous as terrorism. The Near Earth Object Program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is doing an admirable job of estimating impact risk of currently known PHAs. But there are also the unknown unknowns. A report last year from NASA estimated that only 20 to 30 percent of PHAs have been found. It is entirely possible that tomorrow, or next year, or five years from now, an astronomer will find an object on a collision course with Earth.

However, if we have learned anything in the past several decades of space operations, it is that it is extremely difficult to throw together something at the last minute. Developing all of the technological infrastructure for something like a gravitational tractor will take years. Even if we had one sitting in Florida ready to be launched, such a tractor would also take years to do its work. The earlier such a device could be sent up, the better it could alter the trajectory of an incoming asteroid.

By the time we see the next bullet coming, it might be too late.

Konstantin Kakaes is a fellow at the New America Foundation.

Text Only
CNHI/Southeast Iowa
  • 072214 Diamond Llama 1.jpg Llama on the loose corralled in Missouri town

    A llama on the lam cruised Main Street Tuesday before it mistook a resident’s fenced backyard for a place to grab a meal and freshen up.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • An oncologist uses scorpion venom to locate cancer cells

    Olson, a pediatric oncologist and research scientist in Seattle, has developed a compound he calls Tumor Paint. When injected into a cancer patient, it seems to light up all the malignant cells so surgeons can easily locate and excise them.

    July 22, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 2.00.42 PM.png VIDEO: Train collides with semi truck carrying lighter fluid

    A truck driver from Washington is fortunate to be alive after driving his semi onto a set of tracks near Somerset, Ky., and being struck by a locomotive, which ignited his load of charcoal lighter fluid.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • mama.jpg What we get wrong about millennials living at home

    If the media is to be believed, America is facing a major crisis. "Kids," some age 25, 26, or even 30 years old, are living out of their childhood bedrooms and basements at alarmingly high numbers. The hand-wringing overlooks one problem: It's all overblown.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wal-Mart to cut prices more aggressively in back-to-school push

    Wal-Mart Stores plans to cut prices more aggressively during this year's back-to-school season and will add inventory to its online store as the chain battles retailers for student spending.

    July 21, 2014

  • Hospitals let patients schedule ER visits

    Three times within a week, 34-year-old Michael Granillo went to the emergency room at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles because of intense back pain. Each time, Granillo, who didn't have insurance, stayed for less than an hour before leaving without being seen by a doctor.

    July 21, 2014

  • Starved Pennsylvania 7-year-old weighed only 25 pounds

    A 7-year-old Pennsylvania boy authorities described as being so underweight he looked like a human skeleton has been released from the hospital.

    July 21, 2014

  • Fundraiser for soldiers' families approaching

    CENTERVILLE — Justin Zaputil remembers when Master Sgt. Travis Riddick died. The common reactions didn’t feel right. Mourning and then moving on left something undone. It didn’t seem to accomplish what Zaputil and a handful of others wanted. It didn’

    July 21, 2014

  • Malaysians wonder 'Why us?' after second loss of airline jet

    It was all too familiar. Grieving families rushing to airport. The flashing television graphics of a plane's last radar appearance. The uncomfortable officials before a heavy thicket of microphones.
    For many Malaysians, the disappearance of Flight 370 in March has been a long trauma from which the nation has not yet recovered.

    July 18, 2014

  • A quarter of the world's most educated people live in the 100 largest cities

    College graduates are increasingly sorting themselves into high-cost, high-amenity cities such as Washington, New York, Boston and San Francisco, a phenomenon that threatens to segregate us across the country by education.

    July 18, 2014

Features
Facebook
AP Video
Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City Diplomatic Push Intensifies to End War in Gaza Obama Offers Condolences at Dutch Embassy Cat Fans Lap Up Feline Film Festival Raw: Lawmakers Scuffle in Ukraine's Parliament The Rock Finds His Inner 'Hercules' Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die Raw: MH17 Passenger Remains in Kharkiv, Ukraine Raw: Israel Hits Gaza Targets, Destroys Mosques Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Obituaries