Ouch...that smarts. But if you’ve got a smart idea on how best to deal with destructive Near Earth Objects (NEOs), a blue-ribbon committee is looking for best-of solutions.
Credit: Don Davis
Okay, so you?ve started the New Year with big aspirations. Maybe you?ve got sky-high ambitions to change the world?perhaps even save it.
How about fending off mean, nasty, Earth-threatening objects lurking out there in the dark of deep space? There?s surely heaps of glory and macho mojo to win by taking on such scary celestial beasts Bruce Willis-style as depicted in that striking movie Armageddon!
For those of you sleepless in Seattle and elsewhere about Earth-pounding projectiles from afar, the esteemed National Academies is on the lookout for scientific and technically credible ideas.
The Space Studies Board ? in coordination with the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board of the National Research Council ? has put in gear a two-part study on Near-Earth Objects, or NEOs for short.
A blue-ribbon group of experts has been selected to address issues concerning the detection, tracking, and characterization of NEOs ? and approaches to mitigating identified hazards.
Request for information
This committee has issued a Request for Information (RFI) to solicit ideas to survey, detect and characterize NEOs, as well as potential mission concepts for deflection/mitigation of Earth-smacking objects.
Those wishing to submit their schemes may draw upon the use of different facilities ? ground- or space-based ? and/or involve international cooperation in their proposed solutions.
Over the years, there?s been a roster of NEO-thwarting proposals, among them: Blasting them with reflected solar energy, nuking them outright, gravity tractors, strapping little rocket motors onto the object, even pushing a NEO out of the way by collective mental channeling.?
To get more on this RFI request, I launched my own information probe to the committee.
No magic, please!
?Congress asked the National Academies to look at current efforts for detecting and mitigating the threat posed by objects whose orbits may take them close to Earth. Specifically, Congress wants suggestions as to what steps to take next,? responded Irwin Shapiro of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and chairman of the Committee to Review Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies.
said that the study will be comprehensive, but added: ?In addition to looking
at all current efforts and ideas, we want to learn about new approaches that
might be valuable. Hence, we've issued a request to the scientific and
technical communities for such suggestions."
In seeking proposals, suggestions sent in must be anchored in reality. That is, they need to be capable of being evaluated both from a technical and from a cost perspective, since one of the committee?s tasks is to produce cost estimates of the options.
?So no magic, please, just well-thought out concepts and plans commensurate with the time available for response to this request,? Shapiro said.
Underscoring that view is Dwayne Day, the study director for the NEO assessment: ?No movie scripts, please. We don?t need Bruce Willis.?
So the invite is out to write a program or mission concept for detecting, characterizing, or mitigating the hazards of NEOs.
The deadline for ideas is March 20, 2009.
However, for logistical reasons, the Committee asks that you first submit a Letter of Intent by Jan. 30, 2009.
For more information, go to:
By the way?no pressure, but the Earth is counting on you!
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Leonard David has been reporting on the space industry for more than four decades. He is past editor-in-chief of the National Space Society's Ad Astra and Space World magazines and has written for SPACE.com since 1999.