[meteorite-list] Military intelligence-- still an oxymoron.

From: Greg Catterton <star_wars_collector_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu, 11 Jun 2009 13:12:54 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <903759.91123.qm_at_web46410.mail.sp1.yahoo.com>

Perhaps they have found "the big one" heading right for us and dont want it to get out...

--- On Thu, 6/11/09, Darren Garrison <cynapse at charter.net> wrote:

> From: Darren Garrison <cynapse at charter.net>
> Subject: [meteorite-list] Military intelligence-- still an oxymoron.
> To: Meteorite-list at meteoritecentral.com
> Date: Thursday, June 11, 2009, 5:10 PM
> http://www.space.com/news/090610-military-fireballs.html
> Military Hush-Up: Incoming Space Rocks Now Classified
> By Leonard David
> SPACE.com's Space Insider Columnist
> posted: 10 June 2009
> 05:35 pm ET
> For 15 years, scientists have benefited from data gleaned
> by U.S. classified
> satellites of natural fireball events in Earth's atmosphere
> ? but no longer.
> A recent U.S. military policy decision now explicitly
> states that observations
> by hush-hush government spacecraft of incoming bolides and
> fireballs are
> classified secret and are not to be released, SPACE.com has
> learned.
> The satellites' main objectives include detecting nuclear
> bomb tests, and their
> characterizations of asteroids and lesser meteoroids as
> they crash through the
> atmosphere has been a byproduct data bonanza for
> scientists.
> The upshot: Space rocks that explode in the atmosphere are
> now classified.
> "It's baffling to us why this would suddenly change," said
> one scientist
> familiar with the work. "It's unfortunate because there was
> this great
> synergy...a very good cooperative arrangement. Systems were
> put into dual-use
> mode where a lot of science was getting done that couldn't
> be done any other
> way. It's a regrettable change in policy."
> Scientists say not only will research into the threat from
> space be hampered,
> but public understanding of sometimes dramatic sky
> explosions will be
> diminished, perhaps leading to hype and fear of the
> unknown.
> Incoming!
> Most "shooting stars" are caused by natural space debris no
> larger than peas.
> But routinely, rocks as big as basketballs and even small
> cars crash into the
> atmosphere. Most vaporize or explode on the way in, but
> some reach the surface
> or explode above the surface. Understandably, scientists
> want to know about
> these events so they can better predict the risk here on
> Earth.
> Yet because the world is two-thirds ocean, most incoming
> objects aren't visible
> to observers on the ground. Many other incoming space rocks
> go unnoticed because
> daylight drowns them out.
> Over the last decade or so, hundreds of these events have
> been spotted by the
> classified satellites. Priceless observational information
> derived from the
> spacecraft were made quickly available, giving researchers
> such insights as
> time, a location, height above the surface, as well as
> light-curves to help pin
> down the amount of energy churned out from the fireballs.
> And in the shaky world we now live, it's nice to know that
> a sky-high detonation
> is natural versus a nuclear weapon blast.
> Where the space-based surveillance truly shines is over
> remote stretches of
> ocean ? far away from the prospect of ground-based data
> collection.
> But all that ended within the last few months, leaving
> scientists blind-sided
> and miffed by the shift in policy. The hope is that the
> policy decision will be
> revisited and overturned.
> Critical importance
> "The fireball data from military or surveillance assets
> have been of critical
> importance for assessing the impact hazard," said David
> Morrison, a Near Earth
> Object (NEO) scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center. He
> noted that his views
> are his own, not as a NASA spokesperson.
> The size of the average largest atmospheric impact from
> small asteroids is a key
> piece of experimental data to anchor the low-energy end of
> the power-law
> distribution of impactors, from asteroids greater than 6
> miles (10 kilometers)
> in diameter down to the meter scale, Morrison told
> SPACE.com.
> "These fireball data together with astronomical
> observations of larger
> near-Earth asteroids define the nature of the impact hazard
> and allow rational
> planning to deal with this issue," Morrison said.
> Morrison said that fireball data are today playing
> additional important roles.
> As example, the fireball data together with infrasound
> allowed scientists to
> verify the approximate size and energy of the unique
> Carancas impact in the
> Altiplano -- on the Peru-Bolivia border -- on Sept. 15,
> 2007.
> Fireball information also played an important part in the
> story of the small
> asteroid 2008 TC3, Morrison said. That was the first-ever
> case of the
> astronomical detection of a small asteroid before it hit
> last year. The fireball
> data were key for locating the impact point and the
> subsequent recovery of
> fragments from this impact.
> Link in public understanding
> Astronomers are closing in on a years-long effort to find
> most of the
> potentially devastating large asteroids in our neck of the
> cosmic woods, those
> that could cause widespread regional or global devastation.
> Now they plan to
> look for the smaller stuff.
> So it is ironic that the availability of these fireball
> data should be curtailed
> just at the time the NEO program is moving toward surveying
> the small impactors
> that are most likely to be picked up in the fireball
> monitoring program,
> Morrision said.
> "These data have been available to the scientific community
> for the past
> decade," he said. "It is unfortunate this information is
> shut off just when it
> is becoming more valuable to the community interested in
> characterizing near
> Earth asteroids and protecting our planet from asteroid
> impacts."
> The newly issued policy edict by the U.S. military of
> reporting fireball
> observations from satellites also caught the attention of
> Clark Chapman, a
> planetary scientist and asteroid impact expert at Southwest
> Research Institute
> in Boulder, Colorado.
> "I think that this information is very important to make
> public," Chapman told
> SPACE.com.
> "More important than the scientific value, I think, is that
> these rare, bright
> fireballs provide a link in public understanding to the
> asteroid impact hazard
> posed by still larger and less frequent asteroids," Chapman
> explained.
> Those objects are witnessed by unsuspecting people in
> far-flung places, Chapman
> said, often generating incorrect and exaggerated reports.
> "The grounding achieved by associating these reports by
> untrained observers with
> the satellite measurements is very useful for calibrating
> the observer reports
> and closing the loop with folks who think they have seen
> something mysterious
> and extraordinary," Chapman said.
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Received on Thu 11 Jun 2009 04:12:54 PM PDT

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