Humanity and Asteroids
Dr. David James Johnson
South Whitley - July 31,1999 - Think for a moment... Everything you know, everyone you have ever known or heard of is here, now; Everything we have achieved as a civilization, and in technology all originated here on the Earth. Now give a thought to life and your life in general, consider everything that is important to you, personally.
Now consider this, imagine that for the first time in human history we have the capability and the technology to detect a natural disaster before it happens, and that we can even possibly avert such an event from occuring.
Sound like science fiction ? It's not, it's the Spaceguard Program. Eugene Shoemaker spent a large part of his life proving that the Earth has been hit before and will be again, and soon. However governments are only offering token efforts in support of this program, as at present there are only a few possible NEO object over the next few decades that may hit the Earth, and many mainstream scientist believe these events to be remote, thus funding is not much of an issue.
Yet when the data on Asteroid 1999 An10 appeared that it would hit the Earth in a few years, NASA's budget requests and interest in the topic went from $3.5 million to $10.5 million a year.
Was this an indication that we were looking at a serious problem looming on the horizon, possibly. However in recent weeks, the threat from this asteroid has been downgraded, as the discovery of four photographs from a 1954 sky survey showed what is believed to be the same asteroid, and the data from that detection indicates that the object is not a threat at this time. However I am not totally convinced.
In recent weeks, I have written various articles related to Spaceguard, all of which outline steps I firmly believe need to be implemented. Now whether it's a singular nation taking the lead in this issue or the United Nations should become directly involved matters not - as long as the job gets done, and done right.
This is an issue and a problem which will be with us forever more, so it would behoove us to take it seriously and set up a Global Detection Network, and has a presence in every country and every continent, as this should be a concern to all people and all Nations, and all Industry, Scientific fields in existence today.
The cost is so small , but them how does one put a price tag on life, or the lives of our children and the generations to come ? Perhaps the cost of such a program is too small to be considered realistic, or maybe the idea of the people of this world actually working together as one to achieve a goal is not desirable, because our neighbors are too different or not technologically advanced enough, and providing them with some of the technology needed for this program would not be a wise decision.
Paranoia has gone on long enough, as has the bigotry which has separated our races. In the end we all bleed the same, and we all stand alone in front of our own Gods. In the end it matters not which nation we hail from, or what our religion or ideology is or was. The end result should be that we saw a chance to make a difference, and we acted upon it, and lives were saved, and through our efforts, life on Earth was a bit better for what we achieved.
If we as a whole continue to do little in this area, and ignore the stark reality of the threat from asteroids, then our fate and mabye that of Earth are sealed. At the beginning of this article, I asked you to think and consider things. Now consider this.
If we continue the path we have been on now, of token efforts and lack of resolve on the issues, and nothing beyond what is going on now is done. Then all that we are and all that we have achieved is for naught, and means nothing. For if, one of these rocks gets by us, it will be too late for us, and possibly the future generations, as we will have gone the way of the dinosaur.
Planetary Defense may seem to some like a bad science fiction story led by mad scientists, but it is as real as the rocks which will hit the Earth. Weather its a giant rock or a pesky alien, matters not; Just because we can't see it or identify a particular object as the one at present, does not mean that it doesn't exist.
We know for a fact that asteroids are real, and its not a question of IF but WHEN! Thus support from every facet of our civilization is needed, as if we continue the current path , then we are all the looser's, as are the generations to come. Thus supporting Spaceguard is a necessity.
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