A group of former astronauts, astronomers, engineers, and the ubiquitous Tim O’Reilly (presumably for the publishing rights) are getting together to try and punt a privately-funded space telescope to scan for dangerous asteroids. Since the question is not “if” Earth is struck by a large object but “when” (the last big hit was …
I'm all for the setting up of a satellite to track these asteroids more accurately but wouldn't it make sense to concurrently develop a way to divert the path of said asteroids? Spotting a biggie and then not being able to do anything about it seems rather pointless.
Detection comes first
If money is no object then "yes", but it's generally hard to raise money for space projects so starting with on just one is pragmatic, and:
(1) diversion will "always" be a slow process - small amounts of thrust well in advance (sorry Michael Bay...) - so you need to see the impending collision a long time in advance - possibly years
(2) detection is an extension of things we're already quite proficient at - chances are quite good that Sentinel will work as expected first time. Diversion is a whole new ball game - a number of possible avenues exist but generally require exciting new tech and quite possibly we'll need several options eg for diverting a gravitationally bound hailstorm vs a big coherent lump. So both poorer bounds on problem and higher investment required
(3) the moolah for diversion will be more forthcoming if Sentinel finds a load of scary fellow-travellers
(4) maybe the Planetary Resources will invent the necessary diversion tech anyway as part of their NEO quarrying scheme - in fact maybe Sentinel will become their "bounty hunter" (unlikely since there won't be a perfect overlap between "things worth quarrying" and "things worth dodging")
"not being able to do anything about"
I plan to do a lot of running in circles and screaming.
President Vladimir Putin has volunteered fly to, and blow the sucker up when roid is detected, and end of the world is inevitable. Interestingly this will coincide with leadup to next Russian elections.
If Dame Judi Dench can be persuaded to join the team too, with a couple of second-hand nukes they could sell the film rights, save the world AND make a huge protit.
I'm totally up for contributing to this on one condition - any revenue from technology side benefits: patents, gizmos and doohickeys, that spin off from this and are profitable are either (a) distributed amongst investors or if too small for individuals to care, put into a foundation to fund further work on this.
It's a great idea and worthwhile, but I'm not putting money into it just so that some company can use it as research bed to make money from.
That's a nice planet you have there...
It'd be a shame if anything were to happen to it.
It's all very well
Talking about blowing up meteors but did no one read Star Stormers when they were kids?
Won't somebody please think of the children?
Re: It's all very well
It's all right Loyd.. some of us do remember that asteroids are by their very nature are spaceworthy and several other writers have also hollowed them out & bolted on engines. As it takes less energy to rendezvous with an object that crosses Earth orbit than get to the moon I dare say somebody is watching the skies for something suitable.
About all the small asteroids. Even a 10m asteroid could do some serious damage IF it landed in the wrong place.
Yes, but there would still be a lot of other people around to go: "Ooooo, that was nasty", an effect you don't get with the big ones.
Small town with significant hole in it = Oopsie.
Total extinction = A Big Fat Hairy Deal.
We can address the concerns of the "Even one death is one too many" merchants after we've ensured the survival of the species.
I am certain I am not alone amongst the Reg readership in not taking kindly to your negative stereotyping of the fat and hairy.
Re: "Even one death is one too many"
I use to be of the opinion that the lawyers were at the top of the exclusion list for that claim, but of late I'm coming round to thinking it needs to be the EODIOTM merchants instead.