Report Calls for More Asteroid Protection : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

Monday September 18 7:39 AM ET

Report Calls for More Asteroid Protection


LONDON (Reuters) - It may only happen once every 100,000 years, but British scientists want something to be done now to protect the earth from being hit by a major asteroid.

The Task Force on Near Earth Objects, appointed by science minister Lord Sainsbury, has produced a report which says the threat of an asteroid hit is real and the government should take action to prevent it.

The report, being published on Monday, wants an international effort to develop an asteroid early warning system involving British telescopes.

Professor Mark Bailey, of Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland, said the effects of the earth being hit by an asteroid bigger than one kilometer (0.6 miles) in size would be devastating.

``This would cause a global catastrophe wherever it hit the earth, via a climate change, and this would lead to a rapid cut-off of the food supply and ultimately within a few months to a loss of probably greater than a quarter of the world's population,'' he told BBC radio.

Lembit Opik, a member of parliament for the minority Liberal Democrat party who campaigned for the task force to be set up, called for 70 million pounds ($98 million) to be spent over 10 years on technology to track approaching asteroids.

This could give five, 10 or even 100 years notice and provide the chance to divert asteroids by ``giving them a nudge with a rocket or a nuclear device.'' A slight diversion could push asteroids up to 5,000 miles out of the earth's orbit.

Experts believe that up to 10,000 football-sized asteroids land every year but most go unnoticed.

Lord Sainsbury said the report ``sets out clearly and authoritatively the nature of the risk and it suggests the sort of international action that we should participate in.''

He said the establishment of a British asteroid defense center was one of the report's recommendations.

But he added: ``This is such an obviously international situation that it very much one where the international community should work together.''

Sainsbury said the U.S. space agency NASA (news - web sites) already had a substantial program and had been set a goal by the U.S. Congress to detect at least 90 percent of all near-earth objects with a diameter greater than one km within 10 years.

He said the problem was being taken seriously even though there was a only a big asteroid impact every 100,000 years.

-- (hmm@hmm.hmm), September 18, 2000


According to this article, we'll have a very close shave in 2027 - and a possible impact in 2039. This stinker is a half-miler, so it would be nothing to sneeze at...

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-- Deb M. (, September 18, 2000.

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