[meteorite-list] Rohrabacher Requests Hearing to Assess Collision Threat from Asteroids

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2007 09:18:24 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <200706281618.JAA12112_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Rohrabacher Requests Hearing to Assess Collision Threat from Asteroids
SatNews Daily
June 27, 2007

WASHINGTON, DC - Rep. Dana Rohrabacher
has requested a Congressional hearing to examine the United States'
ability to track Near Earth Objects (NEOs) that potentially pose a
significant threat to the planet. NEOs include asteroids and comets
within the solar system.

"At this time," said Rohrabacher, "our ability to discover and track
such objects is woefully inadequate." Rohrabacher is a member of the
Science and Technology Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics and the
Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight.

"While progress has been made in detecting large numbers of NEOs that
will not hit the Earth, we still do not have in place a system that
adequately deals with the actual detection of an NEO on a scheduled
collision course with the planet," Rohrabacher said. In 2005,
Rohrabacher sponsored the George E. Brown Jr. Near Earth Object Survey
Act (HR 1022) which would increase NASA's program by requiring 90% of
NEOs 140 meters and larger to be cataloged within 15 years.

In a letter to Rep. Mark Udall, chairman of the Subcommittee on Space
and Aeronautics, Rohrabacher noted that a March 2007 report released by
NASA restated the goals of the current detection program, known as
Spaceguard, and described the possible destruction caused if an NEO were
to collide with the earth.

According to the NASA report entitled "Near Earth Object Survey and
Deflection Analysis of Alternatives," NASA predicts that there are
20,000 objects, each with the potential energy of 100 megatons of TNT or
more, that can be considered "potentially dangerous objects." A 100
megaton collision event is predicted to cause a minimum of 50,000
fatalities. A 75,000 megaton collision has the potential to inflict over
a billion casualties. Spaceguard has a goal of discovering 90% of NEOs
with a 75,000 megaton potential.

During testimony earlier this year, however, NASA Administrator Michael
Griffin admitted there is no funding available to increase resources for
NEO detection, despite passage of HR 1022 under the 2005 NASA
Authorization Act. In addition, the Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto
Rico, a key resource in NEO detection, is to be shut down by 2011.

"We need to have a fully funded program that concentrates on identifying
threats from space and a response system in place to address that threat
once it is identified," Rohrabacher noted.
Received on Thu 28 Jun 2007 12:18:24 PM PDT

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