Meadville Tribune

Opinion

February 15, 2013

Slate: NASA must do more to prepare for catastrophic asteroids

WASHINGTON — About midafternoon Friday (Eastern time), a 160-foot asteroid known as 2012 DA14 will whip by the Earth, 17,000 miles (27,000 kilometers) above the Earth's surface. The asteroid poses no danger to anyone — its trajectory is well known, and it will miss the Earth. But it "poses no danger" in the same way that a gun fired a half-inch above your head does. If you were absolutely certain of the trajectory of the bullet and knew that it wouldn't hurt anyone else nearby, and there was nothing you could to stop it anyway, you could be comfortable in the knowledge that it would not affect you at all.

But it doesn't make much sense to ignore the shot entirely.

Impacts of large asteroids on Earth are rare. Asteroids the size of Friday's would cause only localized damage. The orbits of larger objects are better known, and so imminent danger of mass extinction is low. It is unlikely that astronomers will soon discover a "potentially hazardous asteroid" (PHA) high on what astronomers have dubbed the Torino scale. Still, NASA is not doing nearly enough to prepare for that unlikely eventuality.

What should be NASA's most important task — keeping the Earth, and America, safe from asteroid and comet impact — is barely mentioned in its latest strategic plan, released earlier this week. Planning for a mission to deflect a potential cataclysm is left to private organizations like the B612 Foundation, in which a number of engineers and scientists with years of experience with NASA are involved. It's even headed by former astronaut Ed Lu. But this is too important a task to be left to philanthropists and retirees like the B612 crowd. However laudable their efforts, they lack the resources and capability that the government has. Keeping its citizens safe is the foundational responsibility of government. And in this respect, NASA has been heedless of its responsibilities.

Text Only
Opinion
  • It’s hard to believe park will turn things around until secrecy ends

    Even if a deal is struck to save Conneaut Lake Park from a pending sale to pay off back taxes, it appears unlikely that the park will succeed unless its new managers pledge themselves to transparency and public accountability.

    April 22, 2014 1 Story

  • Public pensions for private lobbyists under fire

    Employees of the Pennsylvania School Board Association don’t work for any of the state’s 500 local school districts — not directly, anyway. They lobby lawmakers on behalf of those districts for things like funding.

    April 20, 2014

  • Many veterans suffer PTSD, which needs to be dealt with

    Initially, I intended this article to be about PTSD “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.” I wanted to write about the myths and misconceptions that those four words may hold. But as the days went by, the story just wouldn’t come together for me. Everything I typed seemed to miss something. There was no feeling.

    April 17, 2014

  • Journalists in combat zones ‘write with light’ while risking their lives

    I first heard the news on National Public Radio on my car radio. On April 4, the day before elections in Afghanistan, an Afghan military officer walked up to a car in a convoy and opened fire. Anja Niedringhaus, a staff photographer for The Associated Press, died instantly.

    April 16, 2014

  • There’s no war on men and boys — it’s quite the opposite

    Two weeks ago, Paul Dici submitted an column titled “It’s time to fight against the war on men and boys” (March 28). Mr. Dici would have us believe that men and boys are being “wussified” by a progressive agenda that may jeopardize our national security. Also, he makes the point that men and boys are not given the same advantages (programs) as women and girls.

    April 14, 2014

  • McCord outsourcing ‘scandal’ reminds me of Y2K fears

    With only seven weeks to go until the May primary election, the campaigns are expected to get a lot hotter and more negative.

    April 13, 2014

  • Can we trust luck when it comes to the nuclear industry?

    Let’s review the history to better understand a major concern of today.

    April 11, 2014

  • Aging — is it a disease to be cured?

    If you are already old, get ready for what comes next. If you are not old yet but on the way, it is not too early to start thinking about aging and dying, because both are part of being human.

    April 10, 2014

  • Local high school students help keep future of journalism bright

    Significant technological and economic changes have caused some to question the future of journalism, both as a viable business enterprise and as a potential career. But if the proceedings of the eighth annual Northwest Pennsylvania High School Journalism Day are any indication, journalism is alive and well, especially in Crawford County.

    April 10, 2014

  • Reps want to hang ‘English only’ sign at the Capitol

    Pennsylvania, it turns out, is one of 19 states that have failed to address the menace that is non-English. Or maybe it’s un-English? Or dis-English? There must be a word for it.

    April 8, 2014

Business Marquee
AP Video
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Stocks