how nasa plans to protect us from the threat of asteroids

Outer Space

Published on February 24th, 2013


How NASA plans to protect us from the threat of asteroids?

NASA, together with universities and private organizations in the United States working on the design of systems to initiate an alarm signal in the event of such asteroids that hit Russia last week. A 5$ million project at the University of Hawaii called ATLAS - Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact-Alert-System.

U.S. space agency points out that similar events than in the Urals, where a meteorite caused the destruction of thousands of windows and injured 1,200 people, are rare.

We can expect an event of this magnitude takes place about 100 years on average“, said Paul Chodas, an expert in the Near-Earth Object Program, as called for NASA program dedicated to identifying objects in space near Earth.

On the same day the meteorite fragments fell in Russia following an explosion equivalent to 500,000 tons of TNT, an asteroid with a diameter of 45 meters, entitled 2012 DA14, passed Earth. If it hit our planet, the asteroid hit the Earth, it could destroy  a large city.

10 years ago, NASA could not detect asteroid 2012 DA14, said Lindsey Johnson, project manager at NASA‘s NEO program. The expert says that NASA has made progress in terms of detection of small asteroids.

The specialist says that there are at least 500,000 such objects near the Earth, it is difficult to follow because of their small size.

After Congress established in 1998 for the U.S. space agency aimed at identifying asteroids with a diameter of one kilometer or larger that could cause catastrophic damage to Earth, NASA was able to identify about 95% of these asteroids.

NASA NEO Program in currently detects and tracks asteroids and comets close to Earth using telescopes in space and on the ground. Scientists estimate their mass and their orbits, to calculate whether they are a danger to our planet.

In this system, the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, which has a dish measuring 305 meters in diameter, can be observed with high detail one third of the night sky, detecting large asteroids.

All asteroids observed by anyone in the world with a telescope, even by amateur must notify the Minor Planet Center, an organization funded by NASA and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory operated by the International Astronomical Union.

In the context of budget cuts, NASA seeks to develop systems capable of identifying and other small objects in space.

To this end, the U.S. space agency financed with 5$ million project at the University of Hawaii called ATLAS - Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact-Alert-System.

Scientists say the ATLAS project, which will monitor the entire sky visible at night can detect asteroids with a diameter of 45 meters a week before hitting our planet.

For asteroids larger than 150 meters in diameter, the system can provide a warning three weeks before impact. Specialists announces that ATLAS will become operational in 2015.

John Tonry, ATLAS project coordinator, says that the aim of the project is to identify dangerous space objects and provide a timely warning, allowing the development of measures to protect the public.

Experts say that the system is so sensitive that it can detect flaming match San Francisco on in New York.

The system will provide enough time to evacuate the people to take measures to protect buildings and infrastructure and to launch a tsunami alert for an ocean impact“, reads the official website of ATLAS.

However, former NASA astronauts and other scientists say that NASA’s efforts are insufficient. For this reason, they designed and launched the B612 Foundation a project that intends to finance, build and launch the first space telescope which is aimed at identifying asteroids private and protecting mankind.

To this end, B612 Foundation seeks to raise 450 million dollars to build and launch the Sentinel Space Telescope, which will orbit the Sun at a distance of 273 million kilometers from Earth, to detect asteroids that are not otherwise visible.

Source: AFP

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