Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

The most exciting atmospheric event of recent times had nothing to do with global warming.

The bus-sized meteor that burst into the atmosphere over Siberia on Thursday has deservedly garnered a lot of attention. It’s the biggest such atmospheric explosion since the Tunguska Event, in 1908, and took place many miles above the surface of the planet, its hundreds of kilotons of energy mostly absorbed by the atmosphere. And a million Chelyabinsk windows.

What remains is the clean-up. And the “lesson”:

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said the incident showed the need for leading world powers to develop a system to intercept objects falling from space.

“At the moment, neither we nor the Americans have such technologies” to shoot down meteors or asteroids, he said, according to the Interfax news agency.

American astronomer and celebrity Neil deGrasse Tyson explained that, below a certain size, such asteroids approaching Earth are undetectable. (Nomenclature clarification: an asteroid is a rock in space; a meteor is one that hits the atmosphere; a meteorite is one that hits the ground.) And there’s nothing we can do about them. They almost literally come in “under the radar.”

But bigger objects could be tracked, are tracked. And potentially something could be done about those. Which is good, since they could be Earth killers.

Not surprisingly, deGrasse Tyson’s followers were blessed with a meme blast saying, “Asteroids… are nature’s way of asking: ‘How’s that space program coming along?’”

For my part, NASA’s current bowing out to industry is a step in the right direction. For it’s only when there’s a lot of space traffic that we can expect expert space traffic cops — who (whether public or private) would be better equipped to stop the next big wannabe-meteorite.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

 

By: Redactor

3 Comments

  1. Drik says:

    July 30, 2009, the Navy shot down a ballistic missile in space, 100 miles above the Pacific. We can pretty well already track and destroy this smaller stuff, despite press to the contrary.

  2. Pat says:

    We don’t want a program to shoot down these objects. All that does is widen the area affected. Asteroids can do real damage and need to be diverted, not shot down. I don’t see how that can be done by the private sector, at least not anytime in the near future. Who is going to invest in the technologies required?
    Earth’s orbit is filled with clutter from previous space missions and the many satellites lifted into orbit. Rest assured that private industry will look to NASA and other agencies, both national and international, for the expertise and the means to do what needs to be done. Watch governments rally to the cause, all in the name of ‘creating jobs’ (and more power for themselves).

  3. TxDoc says:

    Let’s say the Response Team can search outward 5,000 miles in all directions for a bus-sized object traveling at 30,000mph. Let’s see – searching (4/3)*pi*r*r*r cubic miles (= 4/3 * 3.14 * 125,000,000,000 = 5.23*10^11 cubic miles) for a target with a radar cross-section is 9*10^(-5) sq miles. GOOD LUCK FINDING THAT!

    And at 30,000 mph, the Response Team has 10 minutes to prepare and shoot – or whatever. (That’s why I chose a 5,000 mile search radius; a 1,000 mile search radius gives 2 minutes from detection to impact.)

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