In February, a meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, within 17,000 miles of Earth’s surface. It was spotted not by NASA or any of the world’s other space agencies but by an amateur astronomer in Spain, who was powerless to stop the 150-foot-wide rock from exploding over the Ural Mountains. It shattered windows across roughly 650,000 square feet of land. More than 1,000 people were injured, mostly by shattered glass.
Although just a few hours of notice could have helped residents of Chelyabinsk mightily, no observatory on Earth was equipped to detect it, even though the technology is readily available. For years astronauts such as Ed Lu and Rusty Schweickart, who cofounded the private nonprofit B612 Foundation to hunt asteroids, have pushed to develop early-warning systems for rogue asteroids. Now, the United Nations is heeding the call.
Last week the General Assembly approved a set of measures to protect the planet from killer asteroids. The U.N. is forming an “International Asteroid Warning Group” for member nations to share intelligence on potentially hazardous asteroids, Scientific American reports. If a threatening space rock is detected, the U.N.’s Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space will help coordinate a mission to deflect it, launching a spacecraft to slam into the object before it reaches Earth.
The move comes as one of the first steps suggested by members of the Association of Space Explorers, a collection of people interested in deflecting errant space rocks. “No government in the world today has explicitly assigned the responsibility for planetary protection to any of its agencies,” said Schweickart, speaking at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City on Friday. “NASA does not have an explicit responsibility to deflect an asteroid, nor does any other space agency.”
An Anderson Cooper segment earlier this month highlighted the scale of the problem: Scientists say there are more than 1 million near-Earth objects in space big enough to destroy a city, but that they only know where 1 percent of them are. The question is what to do about it. While the ASE advocates every nation delegating responsibility for asteroid preparedness to an internal agency, Schweickart’s organization, the B612 Foundation, isn’t waiting for a government-funded program.
The group is planning its own infrared space telescope, the Sentinel, which will launch in 2017 or 2018 if the money can be raised in time. The development and launch is expected to cost $450 million, an ambitious budget for a private organization.
Next ASE astronauts will ask the U.N. to set up a means for practicing asteroid deflection, so that we’re not reliant on untried technologies, should an emergency occur. Speaking at Friday’s museum event, Lu put it this way: “Chelyabinsk was bad luck,” he said. “If we get hit again 20 years from now, that is not bad luck — that’s stupidity.”
- 1 The Rising Stars to Watch at the Democratic National Convention
- 2 Trump gets bounce from convention and now it’s Clinton’s turn
- 3 On Convention’s First Night, Bernie Sanders and His Supporters Upstage Clinton
- 4 The Gender Politics of Pence’s Governor Pick
- 5 Can Hillary Clinton Succeed on the Hill Where Obama Didn’t?
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Instead of his usual stump speech, Bernie Sanders tonight threw his support behind Hillary Clinton, providing a clear contrast between Clinton and GOP nominee Donald Trump on the many issues he used to discuss in his campaign stump speeches. Sanders spoke glowingly about the presumptive Democratic nominee, lauding her work as first lady and as a strong advocate for women and the poor. “We need leadership in this country which will improve the lives of working families, the children, the elderly, the sick and the poor,” he said. “Hillary Clinton will make a great president, and I am proud to stand with her tonight."
In a stark contrast from Michelle Obama's uplifting speech, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke about the rigged system plaguing Americans before launching into a full-throated rebuke of GOP nominee Donald Trump. Trump is "a man who has never sacrificed anything for anyone," she claimed, before saying he "must never be president of the United States." She called him divisive and selfish, and said the American people won't accept his "hate-filled America." In addition to Trump, Warren went after the Republican Party as a whole. "To Republicans in Congress who said no, this November the American people are coming for you," she said.
"In this election, and every election, it's about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives," Michelle Obama said. "There is only one person who I trust with that responsibility … and that is our friend Hillary Clinton." In a personal and emotional speech, Michelle Obama spoke about the effect that angry oppositional rhetoric had on her children and how she chose to raise them. "When they go low, we go high," Obama said she told her children about dealing with bullies. Obama stayed mostly positive, but still offered a firm rebuke of Donald Trump, despite never once uttering his name. "The issues a president faces cannot be boiled down to 140 characters," she said.
Many Bernie Sanders delegates have spent much of the first day of the Democratic National Convention resisting unity, booing at mentions of Hillary Clinton and often chanting "Bernie! Bernie!" Well, one of the most outspoken Bernie Sanders supporters just told them to take a seat. "To the Bernie-or-bust people: You're being ridiculous," said comedian Sarah Silverman in a brief appearance at the Convention, minutes after saying that she would proudly support Hillary Clinton for president.
The Democratic National Committee issued a formal apology to Bernie Sanders today, after leaked emails showed staffers trying to sabotage his presidential bid. "On behalf of everyone at the DNC, we want to offer a deep and sincere apology to Senator Sanders, his supporters, and the entire Democratic Party for the inexcusable remarks made over email," DNC officials said in the statement. "These comments do not reflect the values of the DNC or our steadfast commitment to neutrality during the nominating process. The DNC does not—and will not—tolerate disrespectful language exhibited toward our candidates."