Meteors for Breakfast
February 15th, TUNGUSKA, RUSSIA–Hundreds are stunned and injured when a meteor exploded 20 miles above the city, many people suffering facial lacerations caused by glass of broken windows, dramatically demonstrating that space objects still threaten life on Earth with dangerous collisions. Meteor strikes of this type are relatively minor and commonly occurs about every 3-5 decades and most terminate in the oceans or unpopulated areas. However, mankind expands her territory daily, and large asteroids, such as the one supposed to have caused a mass extinction 65 million years ago that eliminated the dinosaurs, still loom in our solar system. Most collision-prone space objects are detectable far enough out to allow for humanity to interfere with, so long as we create such a program. Most collisions occur in the oceans or unpopulated areas, but mankind expands her territory daily. Currently, there is no defense in place against the hazard of such strikes, although according to top astrophysicists, any of these objects could plainly be ‘towed’ out of the way with enough warning by a spacecraft on standby. Although the President has continued delivering rhetoric about improving America’s rank in science and math education as an economic strategy, this hasn’t translated into funding of government institutions such as NASA, a natural choice to lead the endeavor.
NASA is currently working with a few private associations on scouting potentially hazardous space objects, with a goal of being capable of spotting 90% of them by 2020. According to a 2007 NASA report to Congress, the Agency could reach this goal by partnering with other government agencies to build other potential observatories assuming they become dedicated assets by 2015. Of late, NASA has been struggled to persuade Congress or the Obama Administration that the Agnecy deserves being reinvested into. NASA’s federal budget allocation percentage has been steadily declining from 6.6% at the time of the Apollo Missions, and its stock was further diminished by the 2003 explosion of the Columbia space shuttle to its present 0.47%, its lowest since 1962 (ibtimes.com).
The United States is one of the few nations currently capable of performing the task of planetary protection. NASA still has the most funding relative to other top space agencies such as the Russian, Chinese, and European space agencies and has been more active among them with the caveat of a couple successful Chinese manned space-flights. Below is a link to a citizen created petition on whitehouse.gov about the issue, although those wishing to get involved should learn more and research the topic themselves.