Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Protect the Earth? Not with this budget!

"If it's coming in three weeks, pray. I can't do anything in 
the next three weeks because for decades we've put it off.”

The word “can’t” is not a word you’ll commonly find in a Marine’s lexicon especially when reporting to his superiors; so you can imagine the frustration that burned inside NASA director Charles Bolden [below] when congress asked what his agency is doing about the threat of near-Earth asteroids. Florida’s Republican Rep. Bill Posey, had asked the former USMC general what NASA would do if a large asteroid headed on a collision course with Earth was discovered today with only three weeks before impact.

Experts have stressed that February 15th’s meteor strike in Russia's Ural Mountains and the unrelated close asteroid 2012 DA14 flyby on the same day were a coincidence and that the chance of a catastrophic asteroid impact to Earth any time soon is remote. Nevertheless, members of Congress asked NASA, The White House, Air Force officials and even UNETIDA what they're doing to combat the threat of near-Earth asteroids during a hearing on Capitol Hill.

"The odds of a near-Earth object strike causing massive causalities and destruction of infrastructure are very small, but the potential consequences of such an event are so large that it makes sense to take the risk seriously," John Holdren, science advisor to President Barack Obama, told the Science, Space and Technology Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. Texas’ Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, committee chairman, said that it was "not reassuring" to learn that NASA has so far detected only about 10 percent of the near-Earth objects that are wider than 87 miles across. Holdren estimated that there may be hundreds of thousands of such objects within one-third the distance from Earth to the sun that remain unknown.

In 2005, Congress directed NASA to detect, track and characterize 90% of these space rocks. Bolden said today that NASA was unlikely to meet that deadline given its current budget and that if current budgetary levels were maintained then that number would not be met until 2030. He criticized the lawmakers for limiting NASA’s abilities with budget cuts. "You all told us to do something, and between the administration and the Congress, the bottom line is the funding did not come," Bolden said. Furthermore, he said the goal of finding a way to respond to asteroid threats has been repeatedly put off by lawmakers who cite a lack of money.

Those same budget concerns also hamstring the militarys mandate to monitor near-Earth objects and other space threats, such as orbital debris. Gen. William Shelton, commander, U.S. Air Force Space Command, told the committee that under sequestration they are even less capable than before. He added that any further budget cuts could have dire consequences. "Our dependence on space, not only for our way of life but also for military operations, is very high, so we would sacrifice that."

Lieutenant General “Stomper” Santorno, Director of UNETIDA/UNPASID said that budget cuts by the US and other previously generous nations internationally have “slowly castrated” the emergency protective and defensive service that UNETIDA provided in space. He said that as the United States, once the international leaders in space technology, were now seen as to not be taking the threats from space seriously, it has led other countries to follow suit and divert funding elsewhere. In an outburst before storming out of the meeting Santorno slammed his fist on the table yelling “Asteroids won’t kill us all, our governments will!”

Source: Fox News

1 comment:

Bruce Russell said...

Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom...