NASA Puts $5 Million Towards Asteroid Detection

NASA Puts $5 Million Towards Asteroid Detection

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A Hawaii scientist's ATLAS project would find asteroids a day or more before impact.

In the wake of a meteor exploding over Russia, Hawaii's KHON is reporting on a NASA investment in a system for early asteroid detection. Currently called the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS), it is being developed by Dr. John Tonry at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy. "It's gonna involve small telescopes about the size of a good garbage can, but very wide fields of view and the intent is to basically scan the whole sky a couple times a night and that makes it possible for things to sneak through," Tonry said. Nonetheless, if ATLAS were up and running it would have provided about a day's warning to the people in Chelyabinsk, where a meteor shattered windows, collapsed a factory wall, and left hundreds injured. NASA has approved $5 million of funding for ATLAS.

Using ATLAS, says Tonry, "We can say it will be exactly such and so a position to within a mile and it'll happen at exactly such and such a time within a second." Asteroids the size of the russian meteor fall to earth about once a year, but we do not always see them because they hit remote locations. "It struck me that there was this kind of hole, that this imminent impacter risk is real and it comes from very small things," said Tonry. The Chelyabinsk meteor was travelling at about 33,000 miles per hour (53,000 kilometers per hour) and exploded with the force of an atomic bomb - though it was at least 18 miles (29 kilometers) off the ground.

There is currently no available information from NASA as to when the ATLAS would begin operations, but it's comforting to know that it was already in development.

Source: KHON
Image: NASA

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the russian strike was one of the best tings to happen for nasa. meteor strikes have gone from something you see in movies and discovery channel documentaries to exploding over cities on the nightly news. people see them as a threat now so hopefully that will save some of their budget that was going to be cut

According to the Law of Sod, this will come online just in time to inform us a meteor the size of Greenland will hit us in 24 hours.

My faith still reside sin Bruce, our ultimate anti-asteroid defence.

wombat_of_war:
the russian strike was one of the best tings to happen for nasa. meteor strikes have gone from something you see in movies and discovery channel documentaries to exploding over cities on the nightly news. people see them as a threat now so hopefully that will save some of their budget that was going to be cut

I agree, NASA (and space exploration in general) funding takes a kicking because it 'doesn't do anything' (most ignorant statement award) and only ever gets the kind of major funding boosts it needs when something 'cool' happens (Curiosity, meteor strike, etc.)

Strange as it sounds I'd rather have had the meteor hit some some town in the American Midwest (obviously with nobody hurt/killed) - American politicians would have gone apeshit over how it was a national disgrace that NASA couldn't protect/warn Americans about the dangers of meteor strikes and then there'd be politicians on tv bemoaning the fact that NASA doesn't get enough funding and calls for an increase.

NASA budget goes up, lots more space exploration missions and loads more awesome science for us to read about/look at, win win all around.

Me55enger:
According to the Law of Sod, this will come online just in time to inform us a meteor the size of Greenland will hit us in 24 hours

OR, during it's test phase it'll be smashed by a small meteor

oh, the irony. it would be delicious.

all it needs now is a gigantic laser to vaporize incoming asteroids, and we won't need to evacuate anything
just the occasional plane might be sliced in half, no big deal.

we are doom mongers aren't we XD

The problem I have with this is that knowing a meteor is going to hit doesn't usually help much. It's a big meteor, we're screwed anyways since Earth is doomed. If it's small its going to need to be very accurate since it would be hard to say, evacuate an entire town that could be hit at any square mile. it would need to be accurate enough that we could evacuate a small but manageable portion of land and I don't think we have anything that accurate. I'd personally rather have an earthquake detector.

Yay, all of 5 million... *slowclap*

Thankfully they've been building a new asteroid detection array in Chile for years so we don't have to wait for NASA to wake up.

Personally, I'm a little more worried about something coming from said asteroids. I wouldn't be wrong in thinking that isn't entirely science fiction right? Could it be possible for bacteria to survive, perhaps inside the meteor?

Whatever the case, more asteroid detection's good news. Now we just need to work on defending our asses from the damn things...

Not sure to what feel about this; not sure how much of a difference it would really make.

Doclector:
Personally, I'm a little more worried about something coming from said asteroids. I wouldn't be wrong in thinking that isn't entirely science fiction right? Could it be possible for bacteria to survive, perhaps inside the meteor?

Whatever the case, more asteroid detection's good news. Now we just need to work on defending our asses from the damn things...

Eh, I wouldn't worry too much about that. I mean, you did read the part where the thing exploded with the force of a nuclear bomb, right? When these things come in, they come in fast and hit really, really hard. Those aren't the sort of conditions that many bacteria (do you mean viruses? Because bacteria probably couldn't survive millions of years exposed to the icy void of space anyway) are likely to survive, and even if they did survive, it's pretty unlikely that they'd be able to infect us anyway.

God damnit, Aerosmith was playing in my head the whole time I was reading this article...

OT: Really does make you realize just how utterly helpless we'd be if a big one was on a collision course with us.

Twilight_guy:
The problem I have with this is that knowing a meteor is going to hit doesn't usually help much. It's a big meteor, we're screwed anyways since Earth is doomed. If it's small its going to need to be very accurate since it would be hard to say, evacuate an entire town that could be hit at any square mile. it would need to be accurate enough that we could evacuate a small but manageable portion of land and I don't think we have anything that accurate. I'd personally rather have an earthquake detector.

Well given the number of people who were injured in russia I would say it could help a little. Maybe not for a long time, but if it saves a 1000 people 13 years from now is it worth it?

wombat_of_war:
the russian strike was one of the best tings to happen for nasa. meteor strikes have gone from something you see in movies and discovery channel documentaries to exploding over cities on the nightly news. people see them as a threat now so hopefully that will save some of their budget that was going to be cut

It really is amazing just how close a call that Russian meteor was. The newest estimate is that when it broke apart, it exploded with a force of roughly 500 kilotons. If it had been too much lower before it exploded then things could have been much, much worse than a bunch of shattered windows and 1000's of minor injuries. Not to mention if something its size was actually solid enough to make it all the way down and impact.

Most people seem to think all asteroids are going to be like the one that killed the dinosaurs, or the ones you see in disaster movies, miles-wide things that could end all life on Earth. But when you're dealing with the kinds of speed and energy that are involved with celestial objects, even relatively small objects can do insane amounts of damage and come literally out of nowhere with the current systems we have in place to monitor the sky. It may only be a once in a lifetime, or once in a century event, but it is something we're going to need to at least take some measures against, or a lot of people are going to get hurt one day.

Here's hoping it does something for NASA though. It really is sad to see such an exceptional program fall into the sad state it's in. Space-travel, or at the very least, extra-planetary industry, *is* humanity's future, and we're basically ignoring it. There's literally a near-infinite amount of resources out there. Just floating around, waiting to be exploited.

instead of funding an ongoing project to recognize all space bodies flying towards earth that seems to be successful, nasa decides to "make their own" for as little as 5 millions. i smell attentiongrab.

Twilight_guy:
The problem I have with this is that knowing a meteor is going to hit doesn't usually help much. It's a big meteor, we're screwed anyways since Earth is doomed. If it's small its going to need to be very accurate since it would be hard to say, evacuate an entire town that could be hit at any square mile. it would need to be accurate enough that we could evacuate a small but manageable portion of land and I don't think we have anything that accurate. I'd personally rather have an earthquake detector.

in case of big asteroids, with 24 hour warning we can launch the nuclear missiles and pray the asteroid is impacted enough to change the orbit. note here, change orbit, not be blown up, because blow up still mean it all fall down to earth and destroy us, however we want it to fly-by. our missiles are accurate enough, question is are they powerful enough?

Earthquake detector is impossible. some earthquakes can be prognosed by detector tools we already have, some cant. its impossible to prognose these we cant prognose now, or at least we dont know of any way. asteroids on the other hand are possible to see, we just arent looking.

Eh, I wouldn't worry too much about that. I mean, you did read the part where the thing exploded with the force of a nuclear bomb, right? When these things come in, they come in fast and hit really, really hard. Those aren't the sort of conditions that many bacteria (do you mean viruses? Because bacteria probably couldn't survive millions of years exposed to the icy void of space anyway) are likely to survive, and even if they did survive, it's pretty unlikely that they'd be able to infect us anyway.

it is speculated that first life on earth could have been brought about by a meteor landing. organic matter can be preserved on frozen state in space and if it is nto destroyed on entry it could survive. technically anyway.

Maybe not for a long time, but if it saves a 1000 people 13 years from now is it worth it?

to spend 5 millions on? no.

Doclector:
Personally, I'm a little more worried about something coming from said asteroids. I wouldn't be wrong in thinking that isn't entirely science fiction right? Could it be possible for bacteria to survive, perhaps inside the meteor?

Whatever the case, more asteroid detection's good news. Now we just need to work on defending our asses from the damn things...

I'm by no mean's an expert of any sort's on space but I know space is probably the most hostile environment in existence other than a sun. Astonishingly low temperatures and lethal radiation that the atmosphere protects us against I would think would kill any form or bacteria. Most viruses and cells that infect human systems can only survive for between mins and 24 hours out side the human body.

Akalabeth:

Twilight_guy:
The problem I have with this is that knowing a meteor is going to hit doesn't usually help much. It's a big meteor, we're screwed anyways since Earth is doomed. If it's small its going to need to be very accurate since it would be hard to say, evacuate an entire town that could be hit at any square mile. it would need to be accurate enough that we could evacuate a small but manageable portion of land and I don't think we have anything that accurate. I'd personally rather have an earthquake detector.

Well given the number of people who were injured in russia I would say it could help a little. Maybe not for a long time, but if it saves a 1000 people 13 years from now is it worth it?

Yer I think this is more thinking meteors the size up to a house or something, relatively small but could kill allot of people. Think huble telescope, space station or deep space radar would probably pic up extinction level or catastrophic level kind of meteors, just so area's can be evacuated.

Karma168:

wombat_of_war:
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Although it must be disappointing from a nationalistic point of view (which I can totally understand, as I find it very inspirational what NASA have achieved let alone had it been my country that backed it) it kind of make's sense that NASA's funding takes allot of cut's in term's of the knowledge that can be made.

I'm a mechanical engineer so I don't really deal with NASA work (although I have referred to a few papers), but I do know allot of Aeronautical Engineers an they all say long gone are the days of NASA's staff being the total cream of the crop an their research being the be all an end all of cutting edge.

For instance most developed country's are now an have been for some time taking part in some form of government backed advanced aero research these day's ie in the UK (MOD, BAE, AWE) so they are keeping hold of their professionals unlike in the 60's. Commercial entity's are also playing a huge part in Aerospace and space (in general) based research and have huge budgets.

There's loads of other factors as well like the European space agency although not doing a shuttle launch or anything are also actually doing things now. Russia has always had it's own space agency, but China now has a fully fledged space agency doing launches.

Basically what I'm trying to say is the same amount if not more of Aeronautical and space based research is being done, so don't worry about development as a race or anything. NASA is just not the Intellectual spearhead of the industry anymore tonne's of awesome crazy research is done all the time and get's published it's just most of the body's that do it don't have the same impact as the NASA name with the public, they have rested on their laurels for a long time from what I have heard (not that the work they do is irrelevant by any means, just they are now one of many with their body of knowledge rather than the best of 2) that an some of the benefits of the insane budgets they used to have (like the wind tunnel that could fit a 1/2 scale space shuttle, I think, which is jaw dropping). But yer from a Nationalistic view as an american or anyone that is a big supporter of NASA I can see how it's a very sad state of affairs.

Then do what exactly even if you have 24 hours early warning it is not like we have the tech to blow up an asteroid.America you have a larger problem than asteroids it called your 18 trillion dollars of debt that doesn't look like it will slow down any time soon you can actually do things to stop that.

Me55enger:
According to the Law of Sod, this will come online just in time to inform us a meteor the size of Greenland will hit us in 24 hours.

So, pretty much the moon then? :D

"ATLAS has picked up a meteor the size of Greenland coming towards the earth. It'll make contact in less than 24 hours!"
"What?!? How did we not see this coming sooner?!?"

"In other news, after months of increasing size, the moon now occupies the entire sky of countries directly under its orbit. Scientists are astonished by its physics-denying growth."

Spygon:
Then do what exactly even if you have 24 hours early warning it is not like we have the tech to blow up an asteroid.America you have a larger problem than asteroids it called your 18 trillion dollars of debt that doesn't look like it will slow down any time soon you can actually do things to stop that.

It is obvious to me, and everyone else but you apparently, that a 24 hour warning is at least enough time for people to evacuate and emergency services to be prepared.

The_Great_Galendo:

Doclector:
Personally, I'm a little more worried about something coming from said asteroids. I wouldn't be wrong in thinking that isn't entirely science fiction right? Could it be possible for bacteria to survive, perhaps inside the meteor?

Whatever the case, more asteroid detection's good news. Now we just need to work on defending our asses from the damn things...

Eh, I wouldn't worry too much about that. I mean, you did read the part where the thing exploded with the force of a nuclear bomb, right? When these things come in, they come in fast and hit really, really hard. Those aren't the sort of conditions that many bacteria (do you mean viruses? Because bacteria probably couldn't survive millions of years exposed to the icy void of space anyway) are likely to survive, and even if they did survive, it's pretty unlikely that they'd be able to infect us anyway.

Yeah, viruses are pretty picky about the types of cells they inhabit. Odds on they'll be completely imcompatible with our cells. They're resilient (one study (pretty speculative, I'll admit) indicates they might even survive being blown here by the solar wind from another star), but not very adaptable.

As for bacteria, besides being way too fragile to survive being exploded in the equivalent of a nuclear blast and being subject to millions of years of freezing, they have missed out of 3 billion years of biological arms race here on Earth. They'd probably not stand a chance against the bacteria already in our bodies. That's not even mentioning the climate; Earth would be a pretty hostile environment for a bacteria that has evolved on Mars for example. And even then, extraterrestrial bacteria might not even be malignant.

There's the theory of panspermia that all life on Earth might actually have come from outer space, but it's very pseudo-scientific and lacks any solid proof.

BoogieManFL:

Spygon:
Then do what exactly even if you have 24 hours early warning it is not like we have the tech to blow up an asteroid.America you have a larger problem than asteroids it called your 18 trillion dollars of debt that doesn't look like it will slow down any time soon you can actually do things to stop that.

It is obvious to me, and everyone else but you apparently, that a 24 hour warning is at least enough time for people to evacuate and emergency services to be prepared.

You think you can effectively evacuate a city in under 24 hours sorry but that is not going to happen.

Me55enger:
According to the Law of Sod, this will come online just in time to inform us a meteor the size of Greenland will hit us in 24 hours.

My faith still reside sin Bruce, our ultimate anti-asteroid defence.

I just hope we can keep Ben Affleck out of the real thing. Can't stand that guy and his shitty acting.

Spygon:
Then do what exactly even if you have 24 hours early warning it is not like we have the tech to blow up an asteroid.America you have a larger problem than asteroids it called your 18 trillion dollars of debt that doesn't look like it will slow down any time soon you can actually do things to stop that.

You could...you know, warn the people it's going to hit? So it doesn't kill them because they left ahead of time? It's kind of obvious what you do when you get advance warning of a meteor heading to a residential area.

Strazdas:
instead of funding an ongoing project to recognize all space bodies flying towards earth that seems to be successful, nasa decides to "make their own" for as little as 5 millions. i smell attentiongrab.

The current project for mapping asteroids does not have the resolution to spot tiny meteorites like the one that hit Russia. This new project will, by only looking for meteorites that's relatively close to earth.

if only this had happened in December 21 of last year :(

so many Wormwood cries would've been heard and it would had been awesome

The_Great_Galendo:

Doclector:
Personally, I'm a little more worried about something coming from said asteroids. I wouldn't be wrong in thinking that isn't entirely science fiction right? Could it be possible for bacteria to survive, perhaps inside the meteor?

Whatever the case, more asteroid detection's good news. Now we just need to work on defending our asses from the damn things...

Eh, I wouldn't worry too much about that. I mean, you did read the part where the thing exploded with the force of a nuclear bomb, right? When these things come in, they come in fast and hit really, really hard. Those aren't the sort of conditions that many bacteria (do you mean viruses? Because bacteria probably couldn't survive millions of years exposed to the icy void of space anyway) are likely to survive, and even if they did survive, it's pretty unlikely that they'd be able to infect us anyway.

Bacteria often survive on space craft to the moon and mars, their quite resiliant creatures. It's more possible than you may think, heck one theory of life starting on earth Comming from a meteor. It's unlikely, but not impossible.

It's interesting, but honestly I'd rather they put as much, or more, effort into an infrastructure for actually intercepting and destroying/deflecting/redirecting meteors and astroids. I say this because I'd rather we had something ready in case we DID detect a meteor the size of Greenland going to hit us, rather than going "well, here it comes, now what are we going to do?".

One of the big reasons why I've been a big fan of the space program (among many) and why I feel we've been dangerously neglectful in actually building and upgrading manned spacecraft.

I was never a huge fan of "Armageddon" but I did kind of figure that they had one bit right, and that was that we really are stupid enough to wait untilt he last second and then try and pull off some kind of crazy 11th hour save. The idea IMO is to be ready so you don't have to go scrounging for experts and launch a rag-tag band into space and hope for the best. Bruce is awesome, but I'd rather have a good dozen or so ships ready to go, the equipment pre-built, and a standing list of "guys we can send if something like this happens" to draw on.

Strazdas:

Twilight_guy:
The problem I have with this is that knowing a meteor is going to hit doesn't usually help much. It's a big meteor, we're screwed anyways since Earth is doomed. If it's small its going to need to be very accurate since it would be hard to say, evacuate an entire town that could be hit at any square mile. it would need to be accurate enough that we could evacuate a small but manageable portion of land and I don't think we have anything that accurate. I'd personally rather have an earthquake detector.

in case of big asteroids, with 24 hour warning we can launch the nuclear missiles and pray the asteroid is impacted enough to change the orbit. note here, change orbit, not be blown up, because blow up still mean it all fall down to earth and destroy us, however we want it to fly-by. our missiles are accurate enough, question is are they powerful enough?

Yes because untested and theoretical methods will save us. I'll sleep better at night knowing that we might be able to do something, maybe. Since we're not in the habit of regularly shooting asteroids, and all we have is some theories of how to deal with asteroids, why aren't we testing that somehow? This system just seems to be pointless to me. What good is early detection if our methods of what to do from that point on are sketchy at best?

Aside from that, at some point an asteroid is too big (or moving too fast) for us to do anything about no matter what we shoot at it anyways so a 'big' asteroid still means doom. it's simply a matter of what we mean by 'big'.

Strazdas:

Earthquake detector is impossible. some earthquakes can be prognosed by detector tools we already have, some cant. its impossible to prognose these we cant prognose now, or at least we dont know of any way. asteroids on the other hand are possible to see, we just arent looking.

No its not. Earthquakes reflect the physics of the Earth. They don't come from nowhere and area result of observable forces. We just don't know how to detect them yet. I guarantee you one day we will have an Earthquake detector (or more likely we will have a system for releasing pressure between plates by causing earthquakes ourselves). They also tend to be far more common then asteroid that actually pass through the atmosphere. I'd rather have that then an asteroid detector.

Twilight_guy:

Yes because untested and theoretical methods will save us. I'll sleep better at night knowing that we might be able to do something, maybe. Since we're not in the habit of regularly shooting asteroids, and all we have is some theories of how to deal with asteroids, why aren't we testing that somehow? This system just seems to be pointless to me. What good is early detection if our methods of what to do from that point on are sketchy at best?

Aside from that, at some point an asteroid is too big (or moving too fast) for us to do anything about no matter what we shoot at it anyways so a 'big' asteroid still means doom. it's simply a matter of what we mean by 'big'.

Intested theoretical methods are better than sitting on our asses hoping some mystical "god" will save us with his space magic.
in order to test our asteroid defence we must first see the asteroids, and this system is what sees the asteroids. if you want asteroid-defence ATLAS is the firs step.

Yes, a large enough asteroid will spell doom regardless. however asteroid os such size is likely be more attrackted to large objects due to gravity, such as Jupiter or Sun. in fact laste year we saw asteroid crashing into Jupiter and thus we had to observe jupiters atmosphere reacting. astronomers were superexited. my point is - that asteroid was big enough to exterminate humans, but Jupiter sucked it in. Jupiter is our natural defence shield.

No its not. Earthquakes reflect the physics of the Earth. They don't come from nowhere and area result of observable forces. We just don't know how to detect them yet. I guarantee you one day we will have an Earthquake detector (or more likely we will have a system for releasing pressure between plates by causing earthquakes ourselves). They also tend to be far more common then asteroid that actually pass through the atmosphere. I'd rather have that then an asteroid detector.

Eathquakes reflect physics of the earth, physics we are unable to measure and calcualte. what we have now are at best speculation as there isnt always a seismographic warning before an earthquake. Sure, one day we will have it, but "go build it" is not an option right now.

Me55enger:
According to the Law of Sod, this will come online just in time to inform us a meteor the size of Greenland will hit us in 24 hours.

We USUALLY know where those are already, they're not what this new system is being proposed for

Spygon:

BoogieManFL:

Spygon:
Then do what exactly even if you have 24 hours early warning it is not like we have the tech to blow up an asteroid.America you have a larger problem than asteroids it called your 18 trillion dollars of debt that doesn't look like it will slow down any time soon you can actually do things to stop that.

It is obvious to me, and everyone else but you apparently, that a 24 hour warning is at least enough time for people to evacuate and emergency services to be prepared.

You think you can effectively evacuate a city in under 24 hours sorry but that is not going to happen.

A lot can be done with a day notice. And your feeble excuse seems to assume only large cities would be the danger area.

Regardless, a few thousand people escaping is better than zero.

Spygon:

BoogieManFL:

Spygon:
Then do what exactly even if you have 24 hours early warning it is not like we have the tech to blow up an asteroid.America you have a larger problem than asteroids it called your 18 trillion dollars of debt that doesn't look like it will slow down any time soon you can actually do things to stop that.

It is obvious to me, and everyone else but you apparently, that a 24 hour warning is at least enough time for people to evacuate and emergency services to be prepared.

You think you can effectively evacuate a city in under 24 hours sorry but that is not going to happen.

How about we deal with something that really happened, like the russian meteorite blast that spurred this on. A 24 hour notice could have meant local media telling people to stay away from windows during the timeframe it was going to pass and would've saved several hundred people from being injured. But I guess considering that isn't as fun as poking americans over an economic/policy issue.

 

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