Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

Community News Network

February 15, 2013

Slate: NASA must do more to prepare for catastrophic asteroids

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

Yes, the risk of impact is low. However, the U.S. government spends plenty of money guarding against the prospect of other low-probability events. Despite evidence that full-body scanners neither work as well, nor are as safe, as claimed, the TSA has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on them, against the low probability that someone would try and smuggle something nefarious onto an airplane that previous security measures would have missed. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency in the Pentagon, the National Nuclear Security Administration in the Department of Energy, and the Department of Homeland Security's Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, among other government agencies, collectively spend billions annually countering the very low-probability event of nuclear terrorism. None of these events, however horrific, have the potential to cause damage on the scale that a celestial body impacting Earth could. Only a full-scale nuclear war with Russia might approach the damage of a large asteroid.

It is far easier to quantify the risk from asteroids that have already been tracked than from something as nebulous as terrorism. The Near Earth Object Program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is doing an admirable job of estimating impact risk of currently known PHAs. But there are also the unknown unknowns. A report last year from NASA estimated that only 20 to 30 percent of PHAs have been found. It is entirely possible that tomorrow, or next year, or five years from now, an astronomer will find an object on a collision course with Earth.

However, if we have learned anything in the past several decades of space operations, it is that it is extremely difficult to throw together something at the last minute. Developing all of the technological infrastructure for something like a gravitational tractor will take years. Even if we had one sitting in Florida ready to be launched, such a tractor would also take years to do its work. The earlier such a device could be sent up, the better it could alter the trajectory of an incoming asteroid.

By the time we see the next bullet coming, it might be too late.

Konstantin Kakaes is a fellow at the New America Foundation.

Text Only
Community News Network
  • linda-ronstadt.jpg Obama had crush on First Lady of Rock

    Linda Ronstadt remained composed as she walked up to claim her National Medal of Arts at a White House ceremony Monday afternoon.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Can black women have it all?

    In a powerful new essay for the National Journal, my friend Michel Martin makes a compelling case for why we need to continue the having-it-all conversation.

    July 29, 2014

  • Dangerous Darkies Logo.png Redskins not the only nickname to cause a stir

    Daniel Snyder has come under fire for refusing to change the mascot of his NFL team, the Washington Redskins. The Redskins, however, are far from being the only controversial mascot in sports history.  Here is a sampling of athletic teams from all areas of the sports world that were outside the norm.

    July 28, 2014 3 Photos

  • 'Rebel' mascot rising from the dead

    Students and alumni from a Richmond, Va.-area high school are seeking to revive the school's historic mascot, a Confederate soldier known as the "Rebel Man," spurring debate about the appropriateness of public school connections to the Civil War and its icons.

    July 28, 2014

  • Fast food comes to standstill in China

    The shortage of meat is the result of China's latest food scandal, in which a Shanghai supplier allegedly tackled the problem of expired meat by putting it in new packaging and shipping it to fast-food restaurants around the country

    July 28, 2014

  • wd saturday tobias .jpg Stranger’s generosity stuns Ohio veteran

    Vietnam War veteran David A. Tobias was overwhelmed recently when a fellow customer at an OfficeMax store near Ashtabula, Ohio paid for a computer he was purchasing.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.33.11 PM.png VIDEO: High-dive accident caught on tape

    A woman at a water park in Idaho leaped off a 22-foot high dive platform, then tried to pull herself back up with frightening results. Fortunately, she escaped with only a cut to her finger.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • CATS-DOGS281.jpg Where cats are more popular than dogs in the U.S.-and all over the world

    We all know there are only two types of people in the world: cat people and dog people. But data from market research firm Euromonitor suggest that these differences extend beyond individual preferences and to the realm of geopolitics: it turns out there are cat countries and dog countries, too.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • How spy agencies keep their 'toys' from law enforcement

    A little over a decade ago, federal prosecutors used keystroke logging software to steal the encryption password of an alleged New Jersey mobster, Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., so they could get evidence from his computer to be used at his trial.

    July 25, 2014

  • Russia's war on McDonald's takes aim at the Filet-o-Fish

    Russia said earlier this week that it had no intention of answering Western sanctions by making it harder for Western companies to conduct business in Russia.
    But all bets are off, apparently, when you threaten the Russian waistline.

    July 25, 2014

Features
AP Video
House to Vote on Slimmed-down Bill for Border Looming Demand Could Undercut Flight Safety Fish Oil Plant Blast Kills One Two Huge Fires Burning in Northern California Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Suspect Dead, Marshals and Cop Wounded in NYC Judge OKs Record-setting $2B Sale of Clipper Arts, Humanities Awards Handed Out at WH Former Va. Governor's Corruption Trial Begins Trial Begins Over OKC Bombing Video $15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. Maine Police Investigate Deaths of Family of 5 UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted
Facebook
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Upon completion and reopening of Third Street, should the City of Knoxville wait to start the next stage of the Streetscape and Infrastructure project until 2015?

Yes
No
     View Results