Has the shutdown ruined our ability to detect asteroids? Not really. But that hasn’t stopped publications around the Web from running alarmist headlines suggesting as much.
“NASA Shuts Down ‘Asteroid Watch’ In Wake Of US Government Crisis” reads a story published by HuffPost UK. “NASA asteroid watch closes due to government shutdown,” reads another. “If an asteroid starts hurtling toward Earth,” wrote one Fox News reporter in a recent story ““¦ well “¦ good luck.”
The alarmist stories are based on a single tweet from NASA’s Near Earth Object Office’s @AsteroidWatch twitter account.
In the event of government shutdown, we will not be posting or responding from this account. We sincerely hope to resume tweets soon.— Asteroid Watch (@AsteroidWatch) October 1, 2013
While some of those posts make clear lower down in the story that their headlines are actually about nothing more than the temporary closing of a twitter account, others never get there or maybe don’t even realize it. The fact of the matter is that the office remains operational with the exception of social media.
“The NASA-funded surveys, which are tasked with discovery of near-Earth objects, continue to operate,” DC Agle, spokesperson for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told National Journal in an email. “The NASA-funded Minor Planet Center (which is the clearinghouse of information about new discoveries) remains in operation. The Near-Earth Object Program Office, at JPL, which determines near-Earth object orbits, remains operational as well.”
Anderson Cooper had an excellent segment on Sunday, highlighting a larger problem: the fact that scientists say there are more than a million near-Earth objects in space big enough to destroy a city but that they only know where 1 percent of them are. And it’s true, as Cooper’s segment notes, that sometimes meteors are spotted by amateurs, as was the case in February when a 150-foot-wide rock passed within a mere 17,000 miles of Earth’s surface. And the fact that 18,000 NASA employees, or 97 percent of its work force, were furloughed on last week certainly doesn’t help matters. However, you can’t make any kind of argument based on NASA’s “Asteroid Watch” program (read: twitter account) without being disingenuous.
There’s a serious conversation to be had about securing more government funds for asteroid-watch programs so that researchers aren’t so reliant on privately funded projects, and lots of people are already making it. But phony headlines about NASA supposedly closing its Near Earth Object Office don’t make the cut.
- 1 Bull’s Eye: Here’s the Obamas’ New Neighborhood
- 2 Without Federal Drone Rules, States Are Blazing Their Own (Potentially Conflicting) Paths
- 3 Meet Donald Trump’s Surprising Supporters
- 4 Marco Rubio Won’t Run for Senate in 2016 if He Runs for President
- 5 Smart Ideas: The Administration’s Contradictions on Bathroom Access; Poverty Changes One’s DNA
What We're Following See More »
The House voted down the otherwise uncontroversial Energy and Water appropriations bill Thursday after Democrats succeeded in attaching an amendment affirming LGBT job discrimination protections for military contractors. More than 40 Republicans supported the amendment, but when it came to vote on the bill, 130 Republicans joined all but six Democrats to sink the bill. Speaker Paul Ryan said Democrats voting against the bill after securing the amendment shows their intention was to scuttle the process. Democrats, however, blamed other so-called poison-pill amendments for their votes against the bill. Nonetheless, Ryan said he intends to continue the appropriations process.
"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.
"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."