SpaceGuard Only Looking One Way
Dr. David James Johnson
South Whitley - June 7, 1999 - The U.S. Congress is considering a boost in NASA's budget for Surveying the Near Earth Object population to over 10 Million Dollars a year. Once approved this would hopefully see NASA take a more receptive and responsible lead in this research.
Dr. David Morrison's recent statements on this potential funding on the CCNet, yet as he spoke of the Survey which NASA would undertake along with the USAF's LINEAR Project, there was no mention of the Southern Hemisphere. When asked directly about this, Dr. Morrison replied that the Southern Hemisphere had not been considered in this.
My last question to him, was how can we do a total survey, by looking at only one Hemisphere ? The question was not answered. If we are to conduct a total survey, then All Hemispheres need to be addressed.
The problem with NASA is that their primary objective and very thread of existence is in putting men and machine into space, and safely returning them to Earth.
It's origins were born out of the Cold War, with a mandate to beat the Russian's into space, achieve the High Ground, giving the United States the superior advantage.
NASA's evolution has been slow due to old mandates and the whims of what ever administration occupied the White House.
Just as in most governmental agency's, one dose not bite the hand that feeds it, thus speaking the party line, and serving interests and agenda's of the government, and along the line some good science, when possible.
The questions and proposals which Spaceguard centers around are logical. But do not fit a singular national interest, but a global one. As the United States assumes an increasing role as the Worlds Policemen, NASA fails to take the lead in this issue, as it doesn't fit their agenda.
NASA has believed for sometime that if they can obtain good orbital data, and catalogue the local neighborhood of NEO's then they can be forgotten.
The problem and danger here is that things in space can change as fast as the weather here. If a known object, which we have good data on, is struck by another object or influenced by what ever, and its orbit is changed, then we might be scratching our heads wondering where it came from, if there is anyone left to wonder.
Thus the need for the implementation of the Spaceguard program becomes clear. We need good data, good observations and a good survey of what's out there, as well as the ability to track these objects.
However, NASA nor the U.S. Government may never fund to any extent the Spaceguard program to a proper level, as it does not fit their total interest or agenda, the threat is small, so there's no need.
Another problem is the People of the world themselves. Most are not even aware there is a danger. They've seen movies like Deep Impact and Armageddon, but they are just movies, it can't happen here.
When people are starving, and can't pay there bills, they cant see beyond that point. The other side here is that people want to see things that will improve their lives, putting men in rockets wont feed their children, or pay their bills.
Unless they are educated as to the reality of the threat, they will not raise their voice for change. There are also those who would not care either way, till it starts raining rocks.
I teach a class in Conceptual Physical Science at IvyTech State College in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The text book has but a small segment on the subject of Asteroids and Comets.
During my lecture, I presented a range of information of what the arguments and debates were within the Scientific Community at present, as well as the issues brought up by Spaceguard.
The students then viewed the movie Deep Impact, and wrote an Essay of the subject, in their own words. The results were interesting, as to begin with, none had any idea that there was a threat. Ten percent thought that God would stop an asteroid from hitting us, 45% thought that the Government could avert the event and 45 % thought it was a good movie. Unfortunately, the majority of this attitude may be shared by the rest of the worlds populous. Here inlays the problem. Education...
If the Spaceguard Program is to succeed in obtaining credible funding for a Global Early Warning and Tracking System, then a rigorous campaign of public education needs to be engaged.
The people will not react to something they do not understand, or do not know exists. Several of my students wanted to know why the U.S. wasn't doing more in this area, I suggested that they may want to ask their elected officials.
We the people and the scientist may know of the potential hazards, as does NASA. But if we do not understand the hazard, then we become part of the hazard.
We must be able to react appropriately to an identified threat, and we can not do that until, we have a good survey and good observations and tracking on a world wide scale. Thus Spaceguard....
Spaceguard is about the survivibility of the Human Race, not the boundary lines drawn on paper, separating our ideals and religious beliefs. We are all Human and of the Same Species, and we all share in the same threat from above, and if we do nothing we'll share the same fate.
NASA and the United States will not solve this or any other problems the world may have, at least not alone. Spaceguard is of Global Importance and interest.
A unified front of Humanity , as we have seen throughout history can achieve great things, but separately, we struggle for survival. Spaceguard provides a glimmer of hope, if we can see an object coming, we can do something about it, but we firstly need their eyes in every hemisphere, not just in the U.S.
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