In the wake of the asteroid explosion over Russia and numerous other close calls, a congressional meeting was held to talk about asteroid detection.
“There are thousands of asteroids in our solar system, and if we don’t see them, they could hit his.” A NASA Administrator told a Congressional Committee that scientists have identified 95% of asteroids more than a half-mile in diameter, which are the kind that threaten human existence.
On the other side, only 10% of asteroids more than 150 yards wide have been detected. Those asteroids are big enough to potentially destroy cities.
“These asteroids can be potentially very dangerous.” Said Fronefield Crawford, an Associate Professor of Astronomy at Franklin and Marshall College
Dangerous enough that the government is considering spending billions of dollars to protect the earth. He says tracking down the smaller ones would cut down on potential damage. “The effort really is to try and track down these larger ones and get a handle on them before they cause any damage.”
Crawford says that they can be compared to asteroids we’ve seen in the past. “They could be more damaging than the one that fell over Russia.”
The plan would initially cost about $1 billion, sending a satellite into space to detect asteroids that we don’t know about yet. After that, they would take whatever steps are necessary.
“The best way to stop an asteroid from hitting earth - if you can identify it years in advance, is to try to nudge it slightly." Crawford explained. "If you can nudge the asteroid slightly, you can change the trajectory sufficiently so it will actually miss earth.”
But he says, you can’t nudge an asteroid if you don’t know it’s coming. “The real question is whether you’re willing to risk a serious incident.”
Jennie Anne Simpson, an Astrophysics major at Franklin and Marshall said she thinks its a good idea. “I think it’s a good idea. I think asteroids in general are under-detected.”
Jarius Mills, says he thinks the money should be spent somewhere else. “I don’t think it’s needed. Money should be spent on education in the schools, and we have more security issues the money could go to.”
“Sometime in the future we can deal with that, but, I’m not sure if a billion dollars right now is exactly what’s good.” Said Alex Hillebrand.