|Starring Natalie Wood as Mrs. Nostradamus...|
UPDATE: On Feb. 26 NASA released a video explaining the two recent meteor encounters: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qZ6oiaSm00
GEEZ, THAT WAS TOO CLOSE--Just noticed in the news the Pentagon’s latest tally is now at $400 billion spent on a F-35 fighter that might need more bucks to fix its problems. Also, last week, all eyes were on an asteroid that missed our planet by 17,000 miles but those of us without dashboard cameras failed to predict much less see the meteor of the century that exploded over Coldistan, Russia with a force of 20 atomic bombs.
How about those possibilities? You think 20 atomic bombs over North Park might just make us forget the $400 billion F-35 lemon? Maybe, some of those fighter jet funds could be better spent working on a meteor defense system. Where is James Bond’s “Q” now that we need him?
SHOT ACROSS THE BOW OF GOOD SHIP MOTHER EARTH.
Figuring that the Russian meteor got our attention, NASA did have a prepared dialogue regarding the near miss and it its credit the space agency is addressing the big elephant in the room. But is it enough? I don’t think so. Maybe, here’s the time for the UN to give North Korea and Iran a science project to help the rest of us work on a meteor shield. Merde! Shouldn’t this shield system be a number one project—world wide--given the fact we just took a 20 atomic bomb hit that we didn’t see coming. OK, we’re getting hysterical. To calm myself down I checked out “Meteor” with Natalie Wood and Sean Connery. Set in 1979 (34 years ago), we can see clearly that NASA is a bit behind Hollywood. But seriously folks:
Q: What is NASA doing about Near-Earth Objects?
A: NASA has several ongoing programs regarding asteroid discovery and science.
The NASA Near Earth Object Observation (NEOO) Program detects and tracks asteroids and comets passing close to Earth using both ground- and space-based telescopes. The network of projects supported by this program, commonly called "Spaceguard," discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them and plots their orbits to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.
All observations from observatories worldwide are sent to the NASA funded Minor Planet Center, operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory for the International Astronomical Union, where they are combined to maintain the database on all known asteroids and comets in our solar system. The Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL manages the technical and scientific activities for NASA's Near-Earth Object Program of the Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. The NEO Program Office performs more precise orbit determination on the objects, and predicts whether any will become an impact hazard to the Earth, or any other planet in the solar system. The NEOO Program also performs orbit analysis on the discovered Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) at Goddard Space Flight Center to determine which ones may become good robotic or human spaceflight destinations in the near future.
NASA's 70-meter (230-foot) Goldstone antenna, located about 35 miles north of Barstow on the Ft. Irwin Military Base, is part of NASA's Deep Space network. The antenna is one of only two facilities capable of imaging asteroids with radar. The other is the National Science Foundation's 1,000-foot-diameter (305 meters) Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The capabilities of the two instruments are complementary, and NASA’s NEOO Program supports the radar capability at both these facilities. The Arecibo radar is about 20 times more sensitive, can see about one-third of the sky, and can detect asteroids about twice as far away. Goldstone is fully steerable, can see about 80 percent of the sky, can track objects several times longer per day, and can image asteroids at finer spatial resolution. JPL manages the Goldstone Solar System Radar and the Deep Space Network for NASA.
NASA has also started several basic research and technology demonstration projects to better understand the nature of asteroids and how they might best be deflected from an Earth impacting trajectory, or to develop the space technology required to do this. This development work includes improved Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) systems that could push or pull an asteroid for an extended time, and close proximity operations and grappling mechanisms to work in and around asteroids and manipulate their surfaces. This technology will also be useful for future robotic and human missions to these objects, and even potentially resource mining operations.
Q: What current/future NASA missions are targeting asteroids and near-Earth objects?
A: NASA has one asteroid mission underway and another slated for launch in 2016.
Launched in 2007, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has just finished orbiting the giant asteroid Vesta and is on its way to the dwarf planet Ceres. These two worlds are the two most massive objects in the main asteroid belt. The main asteroid belt is the likely region of origin for most NEAs. At each target, Dawn will acquire color photographs, compile a topographic map, map the elemental and mineralogical composition, measure the gravity field and search for moons. The data gathered by Dawn will enable scientists to understand the conditions under which these objects formed, determine the nature of the building blocks from which the terrestrial planets formed and contrast the formation and evolution of Vesta and Ceres. Dawn’s quest to understand the conditions that existed when our solar system formed provides context for the understanding of the observation of planetary systems around other stars.
The Dawn mission is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. It is a project of the Discovery Program managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. The principal investigator resides at UCLA, and is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, designed and built the Dawn spacecraft. Other partners include the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany, the German Aerospace Center, Berlin, the Italian Space Agency, Rome, Italy’s National Institute for Astrophysics, Rome, Los Alamos National Laboratory, N.M., and the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Ariz.
For more information about the Dawn mission, please visit: http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/
NASA will launch a spacecraft to an asteroid in 2016 and use a robotic arm to pluck samples from an Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) that could better explain our solar system's formation and how life began. The mission, called Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, will be the first U.S. mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth. After traveling two years, OSIRIS-REx will approach the primitive Near Earth Asteroid designated 1999 RQ36 in 2018, discovered by the NEOO Program back in 1999. Once within three miles of the asteroid, the spacecraft will begin six months of comprehensive surface mapping. The spacecraft gradually will move closer to the site, and the arm will extend to collect more than two ounces of material for return to Earth in 2023.
Dante Lauretta from the University of Arizona is the mission’s principal investigator. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center provides overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. It is a project of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver is constructing the spacecraft.
For more information on OSIRIS-REx, visit: http://osiris-rex.lpl.arizona.edu/
NOW THE FICTION.
In 1979, a Hollywood flick named “Meteor,” was released to box offices and frankly, if art imitates life—this movie might make latter day Nostradamus’s out of Natalie Wood and Sean Connery. Check out the plot below from Wikipedia:
Plot of “Meteor”
After a collision between a comet and an asteroid named Orpheus, a five-mile-wide chunk of Orpheus is set on a collision course with Earth, with devastating results expected on impact.
While the United States government and military engage in political maneuvering, other smaller and faster moving fragments rain down on Earth...[wait, this is supposed to be fiction]. The United States has a secret orbiting nuclear missile platform satellite named Hercules, which was thought of by Dr. Paul Bradley (Sean Connery) of the U.S. It was intended for defense against a massive space rock, but instead, it was demoted to an orbiting super weapon, its missiles now aimed at Russia. However, its 14 nuclear missile armament is not enough to stop the meteor.
[Meanwhile,] the U.S. government discovers the existence of another weapon satellite constructed by the Soviet Union. The President (Henry Fonda) goes on national television and reveals the existence of Hercules, explaining it as a foresighted project to meet the threat that Orpheus represents. He also offers the Soviets a chance to save face and join in by saying they had the same foresight and have their own satellite weapon. Bradley requests a scientist named Dr. Alexei Dubov (Brian Keith) to help him plan a counter-effort against Orpheus.
Bradley and Harry Sherwood (Karl Malden) from NASA have already arrived at the control center for Hercules, which is located beneath the AT&T Building (now known as 195 Broadway) in Lower Manhattan. [Reason for this site being selected is the presence of nearby deli’s for the film crew].
Major-General Adlon (Martin Landau) is the commander of the facility. Dubov and his assistant and interpreter Tatiana Donskaya—[Donttella] played by Natalie Wood arrive and Bradley works at breaking the ice of distrust held by Hercules commander Adlon. Since Dubov cannot admit the existence of the Soviet device, he agrees to Bradley's proposal that they work on the "theoretical" application of how a "theoretical" Soviet space platform's weapons would be coordinated with the American ones.
Meanwhile, further fragments of the meteor affect Earth, and the Soviets finally admit that they have the device and are willing to join in the effort. It appears that the satellite has a lot in common with Hercules, it was built with 16 nuclear missiles for defense against a massive space rock, but it too was demoted to an orbiting super weapon, its missiles now aimed at the United States.
The new collaboration satellite is christened Peter the Great by the joint US-Soviet team working at Hercules control, and both satellites are turned around to aim into space.
Unfortunately, smaller fragments and "splinters" still continue to strike many places on Earth, some causing great damage, including in Hong Kong, where a fragment hits the ocean and causes a Tidal wave that devastates the city. On Sunday morning, Peter the Great's missiles are fired off because of its position along the orbit, Hercules's missiles are fired 40 minutes later.
Just after Hercules's missiles are fired off, New York is struck by a large fragment of the meteor, destroying most of the city. Several workers inside the control center are killed when the facility is partially destroyed and the survivors slowly work their way out of the control center by going through the New York subway system, which has become somewhat of a trap due to the East River breaking into the tunnels.
|"Meteor" missed so did the movie|
Back at New York, the radio stations broadcast news of the result: Orpheus has been either obliterated or shifted to a harmless trajectory. Just then, the subway station occupants are rescued.
The scene then switches to an airport some time later, with a Soviet flag and an American flag on an open hangar door. From here, Dubov and Tatiana say goodbye to Bradley and others, then they board a plane with the Soviet star and it takes off for Russia.