Recent events provide an opportunity to develop a more coherent
national policy about tracking asteroids, planning for any impact
threats, and making use of the resources they offer.
(credit: B612 Foundation)

It’s time for a real policy on asteroids

by Peter A. Garretson
Monday, February 25, 2013

If you think the events of the post-Valentine surprise of the Russian meteor and the 2012 DA14 near-miss are one of a kind, think again. “We know there are 500,000 to one million asteroids the size of DA14 or larger. So far we have found fewer than 1% of that ‘cosmic hailstorm’ through which we sail in our yearly orbit around the Sun,” said the Association of Space Explorers in their recent statement. We are tracking fewer than 10,000 of them. Even our pathetically limited Space Situational Awareness of the threat shows that there were a total of 10 close approaches just this month and there are many more near approaches on the way, and currently 1,381 already identified potentially hazardous objects.

In 2008, some prescient members of Congress wrote HR 6063, which tasked the Director of the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a policy for notifying federal agencies and relevant emergency response institutions of an impending near Earth object threat, if near-term public safety is at stake; and recommend a federal agency or agencies to be responsible for protecting the nation from a near Earth object that is anticipated to collide with Earth and implementing a deflection campaign, in consultation with international bodies, should one be required.

In the winter 2008 issue of Ad Astra, I argued that it would not be long before this issue was raised to Presidential-level attention, given that the Association of Space Explorer’s report to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space had said that, as new telescopes come online, in a little over a decade we are likely to be tracking as many as one million near Earth asteroids (NEAs), of which 10,000 may have some probability of impacting Earth in the next 100 years, and 50 to 100 will appear threatening enough to monitor active monitoring and/or deflection.

Read more: The Space Review: It’s time for a real policy on asteroids.

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