WHAM AND YOU ARE GONE
Sir Arthur Backs Liverpool's Bid For Spaceguard Scope

Asteroids and comets are a real threat to the planet, and only ongoing full sky surveys will ever ensure we have any idea of the scope of the problem let alone any chance of diverting the biggest proverbial bus that could ever ruin your day.
London - Sept. 26, 2000
Sir Arthur C. Clarke, considered the greatest science fiction writer of all time, is backing Liverpool's bid to build the new Spaceguard Telescope. In an "Open Letter to the People of Liverpool", the 82-year old icon of the space age has pledged his full support for the city's ambition to play a leading role in tracking asteroids and comets on a potential collision course with earth.

Almost 30 years ago, Sir Arthur invented the idea of a 'Spaceguard' system against catastrophic impacts from asteroids and comets. Since then, he has been involved in international efforts to establish programmes for the detection of potentially hazardous asteroids and comets.

In his letter, sent to JMU-researcher Dr Benny Peiser, Sir Arthur, a patron of Spaceguard UK, (the group behind the campaign) welcomes the recently published report by the Government's Task Force on Near-Earth Objects, in particular its recommendation to build a large search telescope. "The type of instrument recommended in the report will be the most powerful surveillance telescope in the world, and will be able to detect the sort of object that wiped out an area the size of Greater London in 1908 - luckily in Siberia," he writes.

"The UK has a proud tradition of building fine scientific instruments, especially astronomical telescopes, and Liverpool has become a distinguished centre for this high technology industry. I think that it would be most fitting if the engineers and craftsmen of Merseyside built the premiere British Spaceguard telescope, for the benefit of the whole country. Such an undertaking will be a significant technical challenge, but the result will contribute substantially to the protection of our only home - the Earth."

Dr. Benny Peiser, who is the spokesperson for Spaceguard UK in the North West, is thrilled by the inspirational response. "For more than two years I have been promoting the idea that JMU's Telescope Technologies Limited (TTL) is the perfect company to construct a purpose-built Spaceguard telescope. Now that the Task Force has recommended that the Government should fund the production of such an instrument, JMU stands a very good chance to be chosen for this important project."

"I have received tremendous support from British colleagues as well as experts from around the world for this idea. In the next couple of days, I will write to local MPs and political leaders to strengthen this initiative," Dr Peiser said.

"This is a golden opportunity for TTL and Merseyside to become the world's top producer of high-tech telescopes. It would be a fitting contribution from our university, the city of Liverpool and Britain as a whole to international efforts to safeguard our world from dangerous asteroids and comets. In many ways, this is a win-win situation for the Government which should grasp this opportunity with both hands."

An Open Letter From Sir Arthur C. Clarke to the People of Liverpool
My 1973 novel Rendezvous with Rama opens by describing the two giant meteor impacts in 1908 and 1947 which could have wiped out a major city had they not occurred in remote parts of Russia. It continues with the destruction of Northern Italy in the summer of 2077.

"After the initial shock, mankind reacted with a determination and a unity that no earlier age could ever have shown. Such a disaster might not occur again for a thousand years - but it might occur tomorrow. And the next time, the consequences might be even worse. "Very well; there would be no next time. No meteorite large enough to cause catastrophe would ever again be allowed to breach the defenses of Earth. - So began Project SPACEGUARD...."

I am delighted, therefore, that the name that I invented has been adopted both by NASA and in the UK. Since the publication of the British Government Near Earth Object Task Force report on 18th September, the prospect of a real Spaceguard project has come a step closer. If and when the government decides to act on the clear and sensible recommendations made by the Task Force, one of the first tasks will be to build a large telescope to scan the skies for potentially hazardous asteroids and comets. The type of instrument recommended in the report will be the most powerful surveillance telescope in the world, and will be able to detect the sort of object that wiped out an area the size of Greater London in 1908 - luckily in Siberia. - We might not be so lucky next time.

The UK has a proud tradition of building fine scientific instruments, especially astronomical telescopes, and Liverpool has become a distinguished centre for this high technology industry. I think that it would be most fitting if the engineers and craftsmen of Merseyside built the premiere British Spaceguard telescope, for the benefit of the whole country. Such an undertaking will be a significant technical challenge, but the result will contribute substantially to the protection of our only home - the Earth.

There is another excellent reason why Liverpool should be involved. It was there that Phillip Cleator founded the British Interplanetary Society in 1933, and one of the Society's earliest supporters was Mr John Moores. Those who ridiculed the idea of travel beyond the Earth would have been amazed to know that before the end of the century, Space would be a matter of vital concern to everyone.

Sixtyfive million years ago, an asteroid impact in what is now South America changed the biology of our planet, and gave us mammals our window of opportunity. Science-fiction writer Larry Niven summed it up perfectly: "The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn't have a space programme."

Signed
Arthur C Clarke Colombo, Sri Lanka 23 Sept 2000

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 WHAM AND YOU ARE GONE
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