If The Rock That Hit Chicxulub
Had Been Traveling 5 mph Faster or 5 mph Slower
Dinosaurs Would Have Colonized Mars 10 Million Years Ago...
Over the next few hundred million years thousands of asteroids have been scheduled by some primal cosmic cause and effect to strike Earth just as they have in the past. The next one is on its way and has been for millions of years; perhaps it is orbiting the Sun in its own rogue orbit or just sitting around in the Main Asteroid Belt waiting to be bumped our way. Where it is, how big it is or when it will get here is impossible to predict - we can only know that when we see it coming. If our species is to become capable of effectively defending itself against this threat we must soon come to understand and believe that The Sky Is Falling Now!
The next one - possibly 10 km in diameter, weighing in at over one trillion tons and traveling at over 70,000-kph may be crossing the orbit of Mars on a direct collision course to impact somewhere on Earth in less than 90 days. Such an impact would result in an explosion equivalent to one hundred million megatons of TNT - 1.3 Hiroshima bombs for every man, woman and child on the planet. Game Over - No Joy - Restart Darwin's clock... again.
Given the current state of resources dedicated to detecting such cosmic events we would quite possibly not even know this asteroid exists until it entered Earth's atmosphere. By then there would be nothing we could effectively do to defend ourselves. Any collision with such an asteroid would unquestionably destroy our civilization if not Mankind itself along with most life on Earth* Even if by chance we do detect such a threat years before impact at present we have no capability to manage it. We could however imaginably affect the course of these asteroids and our fate before this happens if we dedicate substantial resources to detect and manage this threat from much further away than our atmosphere.
Gaiashield proposes to address this cosmic threat by tasking the United States Navy in a global leadership role in establishing a base on Mars and from there, in cooperation with the rest of the world's navies, coordinate the detection and management of Near Earth Objects (NEOs) as they pose a threat to Earth. Such an initiative would be focused on deploying crewed NEO Interceptor craft between Earth and The Main Asteroid Belt - our Solar System's primary source of NEOs. The orbit of Mars is ideally sited for this deployment with Mars itself serving as a base for their supply, maintenance and fueling. Point Defense systems need to be in place on Earth and in Earth orbit or on the Lunar surface as integrated components of a larger planetary defense initiative but we should send the Navy to Mars.
Gaiashield can serve to incorporate and focus the general interests of many often disparate groups. From the US Navy and Air Force and their counterparts world wide, NASA and its Spaceguard Survey and numerous public and private astronomical observatories presently involved with the detection and cataloging of NEOs, civilian advocacy groups dedicated to the colonization of Mars as well as 'everyday' entrepreneurs who do not see space as an obstacle to doing business, all can find benefit and 'just cause' in Gaiashield.
To some degree NASA already has the momentum to go to Mars. Faster/Better/Cheaper is a fine credo when the only reason to go to Mars is science and "Because It's There" but with the survival of our species in the balance Bigger is Better programs can be easily resurrected. Full disclosure and recognition of the NEO threat as a "Clear and Present Danger" at the highest levels of governments world wide will help facilitate a global budget to address this problem.
The astronomers who have dedicated their efforts to NEOs have done little more than make us generally aware of this threat. They have developed a young science for detecting, tracking and cataloging NEOs to some degree, and know how much more will be needed to do the job better - and are the place to begin building Gaiashield. However, these agencies traditionally resist being 'chopped' to any military command. This may offer some explanation for the lack of any urgent conclusion or alarm in their reports. They may not want the focus of the NEO threat directed to 'mitigation' and inevitable military involvement before they have become entrenched in their own budgets. That would be the benefit of the doubt.
We tend to avoid concerning ourselves with things we think we can do nothing about so we find ourselves with little concern for Whole Earth Killing Asteroids - 'NEOShivas'. Lack of concern does not make NEOShiva go away. A lack of concern is a threat in itself. We may not manifest that concern until we actually build something we can use to defend ourselves with when we do find the next NEO headed for Earth. If as a first effort we design and build a manned craft to intercept NEOs and perhaps deploy it to the International Space Station, then we will find ourselves diligently looking for its first mission - do something now that has at least some chance of working. We can ramp up to a fully deployed Gaiashield over the next few decades. We do have all the time left in the world (however long that may be).
The scope of this project is astronomical but initially, through the cooperation of the world's Navies and their common mission of defense, responsibility for Gaiashield can quickly become global along with the economic stimulus and strategic technological development generated by its implementation. Gaiashield would be the largest public works project ever conceived - with Point Defense and Observatories on and near Earth, a forward Base and Observatory on Mars, NEO Interceptors deployed in Mars' orbital path and at its orbital axis, scores of shuttle and transport craft... all we need is a United States Presidential recognition and declaration of this threat as a "Clear and Present Danger" to begin to make it so.
It has been a decade since we discovered the crater at Chicxulub and become aware of our seemingly inevitable Extinction by NEO. Only after Mankind has united to address this cosmic fate - and evolved to that rare if not unique species in the universe that can defend itself and survive the natural events of it's own Solar System - can we then afford to return to our favorite pastime of killing each other over race, religion and economic principles... or not.
R. Dale Brownfield
NEOs: The Sky Is Falling NOW!
The following information outlining the nature of NEOs and their threat
NASA Asteroid and Comet Impact Hazard - Introduction
The Earth orbits the Sun in a sort of cosmic shooting gallery [G], subject to impacts from comets and asteroids. It is only fairly recently that we have come to appreciate that these impacts by asteroids and comets (often called Near Earth Objects, or NEOs) pose a significant hazard to life and property. Although the annual probability [G] of the Earth being struck by a large asteroid or comet is extremely small, the consequences of such a collision are so catastrophic that it is prudent to assess the nature of the threat and prepare to deal with it.
Studies have shown that the risk from cosmic impact increases with the size of the projectile. The greatest risk is associated with objects large enough to perturb the Earth's climate on a global scale by injecting large quantities of dust into the stratosphere. Such an event could depress temperatures around the globe, leading to massive loss of food crops and possible breakdown of society. Such global catastrophes are qualitatively different from other more common hazards that we face (excepting nuclear war), because of their potential effect on the entire planet and its population. Various studies have suggested that the minimum mass impacting body to produce such global consequences is several tens of billions of tons, resulting in a groundburst explosion with energy in the vicinity of a million megatons of TNT. The corresponding threshold diameter for NEOs is between 1 and 2 km. Smaller objects (down to tens of meters diameter) can cause severe local damage but pose no global threat.
January 2002, Official NASA Contact
NASA Asteroid and Comet Impact Hazard - FAQ
Near-Earth-Objects (NEOs) are small bodies in the solar system (asteroids and short-period
comets) with orbits that regularly bring them close to the Earth and which, therefore, are capable someday of striking
our planet. Sometimes the term NEO is also used loosely to include all comets (not just short-period ones) that
cross the Earth’s orbit. Those NEOs with orbits that actually intersect the Earth’s orbit are called Earth-Crossing-Objects
The Earth’s atmosphere protects us from most NEOs smaller than a modest office building
(50 m diameter, or impact energy of about 5 megatons). [G] From this size up to about 1 km diameter, an impacting NEO can do
tremendous damage on a local scale. Above an energy of a million megatons (diameter about 2 km), an impact will
produce severe environmental damage on a global scale. The probable consequence would be an "impact winter"
with loss of crops worldwide and subsequent starvation and disease. Still larger impacts can cause mass extinctions,
like the one that ended the age of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago (15 km diameter and about 100 million megatons).
There are many more small NEOs than large ones. Astronomers estimate that there are approximately
1000 Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) larger than 1 km in diameter, and perhaps a million larger than 50 m in diameter
(the threshold for penetration through the Earth's atmosphere). The largest NEAs are less than 25 km in diameter.
There are probably many more comets than NEAs, but they spend almost all of their lifetimes at great distances
from the Sun and Earth, so that they contribute only about 10% to the census of objects that strike the Earth.
As of the end of 2001, astronomers had discovered more than half of the larger Near Earth
Asteroids (diameter greater than 1 km). [G] None of the known asteroids is a threat, [G] but we have
no way of predicting the next impact from an unknown object.
We don’t know when the next NEO impact will take place, but we can calculate the odds.
[G] Statistically, the greatest danger is from an NEO with about 1 million megatons energy (roughly
2 km in diameter). On average, one of these collides with the Earth once or twice per million years, producing
a global catastrophe that would kill a substantial (but unknown) fraction of the Earth’s human population. Reduced
to personal terms, this means that you have about one chance in 20,000 [G] of dying as
a result of a collision. Such statistics are interesting, but they don't tell you, of course, when the next catastrophic
impact will take place—next year or a million years from now. [G]
With at least half of even the larger NEOs remaining undiscovered, the most likely warning
today would be zero -- the first indication of a collision would be the flash of light and the shaking of the ground
as it hit. In contrast, if the current surveys actually discover a NEO on a collision course, we would expect many
decades of warning. [G] Any NEO that is going to hit the Earth will swing near our planet
many times before it hits, and it should be discovered by comprehensive sky searches.[G] This is the
purpose of the Spaceguard Survey. In almost all cases, we will either have a long lead-time or none at all.
NEO impacts are the only major natural hazard that we can effectively protect ourselves
against, by deflecting (or destroying) the NEO before it hits the Earth. The first step in any program of planetary
defense is to find the NEOs; we can't protect against something we don’t know exists. We also need a long warning
time, at least a decade, [G] to send spacecraft to intercept the object and deflect it. [G]
Many defensive schemes have been studied in a preliminary way, but none in detail. In the absence of active defense,
warning of the time and place of an impact would at least allow us to store food and supplies and to evacuate regions
near ground zero where damage would be the greatest.
The Spaceguard Survey and most associated search and tracking programs are concentrating
on Near Earth Asteroids larger than 1 km in diameter -- large enough to risk a global ecological catastrophe if
one of them hit the Earth. But there are many more smaller undiscovered NEOs, and we are likely to be hit somewhere
on Earth by one of these, with an energy equivalent to a large nuclear bomb, sometime in the next couple of centuries.
The last such impact was in 1908 in Tunguska (Siberia) with an estimated energy of 15 megatons. [G] Today it is
beyond our technology to detect and defend against such small objects, but perhaps we will be able to do so in
the future. [G] In any case, the actual risk to each of us from Tunguska like impacts is very small [G]
-- much less than the risk of larger impacts, and indeed much less than the risk from many common natural hazards,
such as earthquakes and severe storms.
The US Congress has held hearings to study the impact hazard (in 1993 and 1998), and both NASA and the US Air Force are supporting surveys to discover NEOs. In 1998 NASA formally initiated the Spaceguard Survey by adopting the objective of finding 90% of the NEOs larger than 1 km diameter within the next decade (that is, before the end of 2008). In 1998 NASA also created a NEO Program Office, and it is expected that at least $3 million per year will be spent on NASA-supported NEO searches and orbit calculations. Other governments have expressed concern about the NEO hazard, but none has yet funded any extensive surveys or related defense research. A private Spaceguard Foundation based in Europe promotes NEO surveys internationally, and further interest on an international basis is provided by the International Astronomical Union and the United Nations. [G]
RISK: Zero Tolerance
"Once 90% of large NEAs have been cataloged and found to
"General! The enemy is at the gate and they are superior!
Once 90% of large NEA/Os have been cataloged and found to be "safe" nothing will have changed as a result of detection (unless Heisenberg's Principle writ large somehow applies). The risk will be the same as has it always been. We will still have not found that 'one' large NEO next in line to hit Earth and still have no ability to deal with it when we do. Even worse, if in detecting and cataloging 90% of Large NEOs we do not find the 'one', perhaps the 'NEO Detector' does not work as advertised... it happens, even at NASA and JPL! As things stand only the discovery of an imminent impactor will stimulate a response to scramble to develop and deploy any system to defend the planet against a NEO Impact.
In the beginning (a couple decades ago) we had two pieces of basic fundamental empirical evidence: a) The Solar System has a lot of asteroids in it, some of them quite large; and b) Large asteroids have struck Earth in the past. Since there was no evidence that the Solar System or Laws of Physics have changed much since the last large asteroid struck Earth, the obvious and irrefutable conclusion was drawn that our planet would be struck by a large asteroid again. There are only two relevant questions posed by that conclusion: a) When will the next large NEO strike Earth; and b) What will we do to stop it?
That conclusion still stands today... as do the questions. Until you can say exactly when the next large NEO will strike Earth you can Not say it will not happen today, tomorrow nor the second Tuesday of next week. Until all the asteroids in the Solar System (NEO, Rogue, and Main Belt) down to 50m in diameter and Comets are detected and their orbits, mass and composition determined to a certainty, no one can ever say when the next large NEO will strike Earth until they actually see it coming. We needed the ability to effectively react to incoming NEOs yesterday because today, as a lack of that result, tomorrow may never come.
The current NASA/Spaceguard 'single sweep' survey paradigm is fundamentally flawed in its conception and can never produce its stated objective of predictably cataloging the orbits of NEOs; 'safe' or otherwise. Once a 'NeoNEO' has been detected it is cataloged by entering its observed orbital data and estimated size into some Cray at NASA/JPL. Not only does JPL propose to determine the NeoNEO's direct level of threat to Earth but also project any perturbations it may cause in the orbits of any NEOs cataloged to date. However, if any NeoNEO/NEO collision is indicated the entire catalog will loose its integrity and would be rendered useless for any purposes of Planetary Defense from the point of collision forward.
The methodology and tolerances used to determine a possible impact with Earth is not nearly precise enough to plot new orbits for two NEOs that go bump in the dark. Any calculations for their size (generally determined by brightness), velocity and trajectory, even for predicting Earth impact are approximate at best, and any determinations for mass and composition are only wild guesstimates pulled out of someone's hat. These data are wholly inadequate for predicting the consequential orbits resulting from a collision between two objects this size at that speed and of indeterminate mass to any relevant degree.
Further: If you consider that Comets, NEOs less than 1 km, Rogue and Main Belt asteroids (none of which are part of the detection/catalog objectives), together with the undetected NEOs greater than 1 km, have a unaccountable number of orbits intersecting the paths of NEOs already detected and cataloged as supposedly 'safe' - you can condemn the reliability of that catalog today! 'Odds' are something hit something yesterday... The recent NASA/NEAR visit to the asteroid Eros (about the size of Manhattan) among other things discovered 100,000 (+/-) asteroid impact craters on its surface indicating that throughout its billion year long life it has had many different orbital paths.
The odds that the cataloged NEOs will all be where JPL's Cray says they are going to be in ten years or ten days is Zero! Any mission objective to catalog any percentage of NEOs and assess their level of threat to Earth to any degree over any period of time that would serve useful as a warning has from the beginning been an objective without the possibility of integrity, an exercise in futility... a sham. This Emperor has no clothes!
In its results, the NASA/Spaceguard Survey effort can only serve as a cursory sampling of the nature of NEOs in our Solar System. A 'catalog' assessing the future threat level of any individual NEO with the methodology available is irrational from its conception. It only takes 'one' to kill us all. However, no matter how long the odds, their direct observations may stumble upon the next Large NEO to strike Earth, and with good fortune find it decades away. Their detection may even serve as adequate warning for some ad hoc disposition of the problem and Save The World!
The question is, will you continue to bet the lives of your children on it? Catastrophic impact by asteroids and comets may be the single greatest cause of extinction in the Universe just as it has been found to be here on Earth. NASA/Spaceguard is our first and only line of planetary defense today. If this is the best we ever do perhaps we deserve to be doomed. We adapt or die. SOP. Cosmic Darwinism cast in stone.
The greatest risk we face today is in not facing this risk and in not facing it Now. Statistics have been used recklessly and have served only to mitigate our perception and assessment of this threat - no amount of statistical sophistry makes us any safer. This kind of obfuscation to make us 'feel' safe only becomes a Clear and Present Danger in itself and from the perspective of national security, potential criminally negligent disinformation. Even the casual practice of focusing on statistics, probabilities and odds to assess this risk is misdirection. Here, it is not the degree of probability that defines the magnitude of this risk but what we stand to loose.
When you buy a lottery ticket and the odds are one in a million that you'll win you can assess the risk as low despite any odds because 'It's only a buck'. You can tolerate the risk because you can afford to loose a dollar. With the threat of Extinction by NEO the odds that you'll 'loose' are only one in a million but the wager... is the life of your spouse, your children and your species... forever! Without Gaiashield you play this cosmic lottery every day. Do you keep on playing? Do you want better odds - one in two million; in ten million? Or stop playing altogether? With Mankind in the balance our Tolerance for using statistics, probabilities and odds in assessing this risk can only be Zero! Only the cost is relevant and that is unaffordable at any odds. With this threat 99% success is failure and failure is not an option.
We can only 'be' safer after we have developed and deployed an effective planetary defense against NEO impact. NASA/Spaceguard does say 'The Sky Is Falling Now' (the truth is in there too, you just have to dance around the 'glass half full - feel good spin' to get to it) but so far they have failed to say it long, loud and clear enough to elicit a public or governmental response proportional to the urgency and magnitude of the threat. NASA/Spaceguard efforts need to be maintained and expanded into space but they also need to be brought under direct military oversight and protocols. The next large NEO with Earth's name on it is out there and when they do find it and dial 1-800 NEOShiva, who do they expect to answer the phone? Who do they expect to Go in harm's way; get Martial with it, Project some Power, open up a big can of Thermonuclear NEOWhoopass! You don't send scientists to do a Sailor's job. When it's pucker time - you Go Navy!
COST: ...If We Build It Or Not
The risk posed by NEO Impact can never be avoided it can only be managed and effectively managing NEOs will cost... a lot. The energy requirements would be the greatest consideration of Gaiashield. Even then, a 55 mph national speed limit and the re-dedication of the annual energy expenditures for a couple Carrier Battle Groups should cover the cost for the United States. Relative to the discretionary energy expended around the world every year the cost for Gaiashield would still be a small percentage. In the short term though the energy cost would still be noticeable and most things would increase in price proportionally. Any new demand for world energy resources would put pressure on the cost of production world wide.
We dedicate a third of our personal productivity 'insuring' our lives, homes, cars, retirement and health every year. Now we should realize we need to dedicate some portion of our Gross World Product to 'ensure' our survival so we will be around to enjoy our lives, homes, cars, retirement and health. Last year dope dealers did an estimated 400 billion dollars (1% GWP) selling Heroin and Cocaine to about 30 million customers. The 5.97 billion rest of us could at least match that to help save us all from Extinction by NEO! ...What is the world coming to? What will the world come to without Gaiashield? Maybe everybody must get stoned after all.
What are we willing to do without in order to survive? The bottom line should be nearly everything and Gaiashield will not cost half that much - and saving Mankind will be worth twice whatever it does cost - a bargain. We will never be able to project the ultimate cost of building, maintaining and operating Gaiashield but what ever it is we must afford it. NEO Impacts are easily the greatest threat to our existence and always have been whether we knew it or not. It has only been a little over decade since the discovery of the 65 million year old impact crater at Chicxulub and the related evidence indicating that the explosion generated by the asteroid that created it was the likely cause for the extinction of 90% of all life on Earth at the time. 10 years is not long enough to expect everyone or even our governments to fully appreciate the Chicxulub event as evidence of a perpetual threat to our existence that requires some degree of at least our financial concern. From the perspective of Cost/Benefit, we only need to stop the next one to turn a profit.
It should be clear to anyone that defending the planet against something like this is a military task and that militaries around the world should be brought up to speed to deal with this threat As Soon As Possible. Further: they may as well do so from their existing military budgets! With Gaiashield we have the opportunity to buy our species a life 'ensurance' policy. It would cost only a portion of the manpower, material, and energy we are presently dedicating to the destruction of each other. In terms of Opportunity Cost, we must sacrifice a portion of our ability for self destruction to save ourselves from extinction... not really rocket science.
The skill sets required for Gaiashield personnel are already substantially contained within the regimens of most of the world's navies. However without a Cold War to wage and any threat to foster the press of patriotism, recruiting the 'right stuff' into the military today can be a challenge. This could easily reverse itself when "Join the Navy and 'Save' the World" became the heart of the pitch. Sources of suitable manpower are presently involved in or heading for careers in designing 'First Person Shooter' games or building Dot Coms keeping us fully stocked with 'French Fried Bat Wings' 24/7/52. More than enough candidates will respond to a higher and better purpose. Nobility is not dead - it's just hard to find a Dragon the right size.
With the Cold War over (just in time?) and MAD Super Power conflicts having become a distant memory, both allies and adversaries alike can turn their attention to the discovery of this new old and common enemy - one that no nation may be able to afford to defeat alone. Here, Gaiashield may serve as a vehicle for Mutually Assured Peace (MAP) and justify any cost even if we never do find ourselves in the path of NEOShiva.
The martial demand necessary for manpower, material and energy resources to maintain an optimal threshold for any nation's security is reciprocal to the threat posed by its enemies. Fostered by the Clear and Present Danger of Extinction by NEO, a global consensus to proportionally reduce the levels of threat in offensive military capabilities would result in an equivalent financial dividend available for funding Gaiashield. Since there is no actual world scarcity of the specific resources in the amounts needed (although there may be some specific economic dislocations) such a rededication could be implemented without a net decrease in overall world economic production. We could have simply up and declared 'World Peace' long ago if not for the near certainty that the resulting economic shockwave caused by unemploying the world's militaries and their civilian support infrastructure would cause a World War!
Further: We could project that any percentage of global de-escalation in military threat postures between nations would foster an even grater percentage of de-escalation in enmity between those nations... which may in turn lead to additional de-escalations in military postures... As long as there is some overall product demand to replace the economic loss of displaced martial demand their should be little economic hardship and less need for maintaining traditional military postures on economic justifications... MAP via Gaiashield.
The requirements for Gaiashield would not only be seen to create a long term 'war free' global economic stimulus but take us some portion closer to world peace. We could have survival, prosperity and peace and any sacrifice required in terms of Opportunity Cost outside existing military budgets would be avoided. As a surrogate for perpetually preparing to wage war against each other, perpetually preparing to 'Wage War' on NEOShiva can be good for the world economy. A Pork Barrel From Mars! That makes Gaiashield correct 'Politically' as well. Deferring the cost of Gaiashield by rededicating a portion of global military budgets into creating a planetary defense force is still not really rocket science.
If in comparison we consider the time and treasure and lives consumed by the Cold War; the promise we endured of Mutually Assured Destruction as defense; all in the name of contesting economic principles... how can we commit less to uniting as a species in a common endeavor to save ourselves from imminent extinction by a random act of nature? This enemy can never be destroyed, brought to any peace table or be simply ignored any longer. We will need to defend Earth against catastrophic asteroid impacts forever. It is not the ultimate cost of building Gaiashield that should concern us. It is the ultimate cost of not building it! All NEO observers agree on one irrefutable truth: NEOShivas will strike the Earth again. They will come if we build it or not!
Mars: Location, Location, Location
Most of the plans scientists have offered for defending the planet would have us defending the Earth from Earth. There is a very good reason we do not employ scientists in making strategic military decisions... they think like scientists. You cannot effectively defend an aircraft carrier from its flight deck. In a Carrier Battle Group you deploy your aircraft as a shield - hundreds of miles outward and forward to the threat - Combat Air Patrol. Nor can you effectively defend the United States with forces deployed to our borders and shores. To defend the United States you deploy your Carrier Battle Groups as a shield - outward and forward to every ocean in the world - Project Power. We cannot possibly defend Earth effectively from Earth. To defend Earth we must deploy a shield - outward and forward to the NEO threat as far as logistics allow. We 'Bring It' to the enemy - anything else is just Plan B. To defend Earth you 'Bring It' to Mars... now it's rocket science.
The Main Asteroid Belt is the primary source of new NEOs and where the orbits of previously known 'safe' asteroids, in collisions with other asteroids, can easily become NEOShivas. The orbit of Mars, being just inside the nearest edge of The Main Asteroid Belt, is an ideal location for encompassing the space around Earth with an NEO defense perimeter - 'Defining the Battle Space'. Gaiashield would consist of the forward maintenance, supply and fuel depot on Mars in support of a picket of six or more pre-positioned NEO Interceptors evenly deployed along its orbital path and at the polar axes of its orbital plane. From this deployment NEO surveillance, pursuit and interception and generally managing the NEO threat would be more effective by an order of magnitude than from any 'ground zero' based observatory and point defense on Earth, from Earth orbit or from the Moon. From Earth we can only observe the dark half of our Solar System at any given time and then effectively only at the dark of the Moon. On March 8-02 Asteroid 2002 EM7 passed within 288,000 miles of Earth but was not sighted for 4 days after it passed because it approached from the sun ward side of Earth space.
NEO Interceptors would be equipped with leading edge surveillance capabilities. These craft, along with Mars and Earth, would form nexus for a grid with the ability to detect and triangulate the exact location, velocity and trajectory for virtually anything that moves inside that space and do so 24-7-52! The Sun and phase of Earth's Moon would not be an issue. The outward look from these stations would extend observation range and resolution far beyond anything possible on Earth affording some degree of surveillance into the Main Asteroid Belt potentially detecting any NEOs in the making and then beyond that looking for any incoming comets or interlopers not in the book. However, the primary role of a NEO Interceptor would be to execute several possible options in mitigating a NEO Impact on Earth.
A large degree of finesse would be desirable in managing a NEOShiva. It cannot always be just blasted to bits unless the asteroid is small and the bits will be the size of gravel. Blowing up a ten kilometer asteroid into ten one kilometer asteroids will not help much if half of them still go on to strike Earth. A nuclear nudge at a random point on a NEOShivas' surface could end up only altering the current impact orbit into another impact orbit sometime in the future. In the case of a long term NEO we may even put it into an orbit that would strike Earth sooner! We have to intercept a target NEO as far away from Earth as possible, determine its composition and mass; verify its trajectory and velocity; plot or even modify its attitude (NEOs can be pitching, yawing and rolling all at the same time) and then from a selection of on board options we can choose the appropriate resolution. From its pre positioned deployment a NEO Interceptor would be able to intercept a NEO half way between the orbits of Earth and Mars or sooner and as a 'space tug' would be able to deflect, accelerate or decelerate an NEO into a predetermined alternate safe orbit. However, a couple nuclear options would be available in case blasting NEOShiva back into spacegas is the best way to go.
By initially providing the primary infrastructure, a forward base on Mars can not only serve as an effective logistical distribution point for supplies and personnel from Earth but from the onset produce the food and fuel for Gaiashield leveraging its strategic value by developing the material resources of Mars in situ. Within a few decades it could be able expand to producing many of the replacement components and within a couple generations Mars could be providing the primary construction and assembly for the Gaiashield craft as well as the Low G pilots and crews to man them. The principal industry on Mars will be defending Earth from Extinction by NEO. In 100 years Earth could be defended by Martians.
NEO Observation and Point Defense from Earth, Earth orbit and the Moon will still be necessary and technically an obvious first phase. Small NEOs may always be more effectively managed from Earth possibly with a combination tactical nuclear ABM/ANEO Global Missile Defense (GMD) system. We could even deploy a first generation NEO Interceptor craft to the International Space Station and upgrade its observational capabilities now and begin work to putting an intermediary observatory and NEO Interceptor base on the Moon. It may even be that some NEOShivas can be better managed from Earth than from Mars and with 'everything there is' on the line, a 'Plan B' would be an imperative. The key to successfully managing the NEO threat is not only to be able to detect and get to NEOs quickly but with the ability to implement any appropriate resolution we can imagine. That means pre-positioned crewed craft with the speed, tools and power to do a lot more job than we can do now. Today our ability to respond to this threat is limited to photography. CNN can get some pretty cool pictures of our doom just before it arrives.
Some of those who observe NEOs guess that we may have as much as 100 years before we suffer another catastrophic NEO impact. If they are right and we begin now - build a first generation NEO Interceptor and develop a robust Planetary Defense program, we may have something in place capable of saving ourselves from Extinction by NEO by then. However, we cannot rely on politicians to take the lead. They rely on odds and probabilities far too much even when the odds lack any basis for integrity. For them a probability for anything 100 years from now is just 'Not on My Watch' (will not help raise money to buy votes). They will need to be cornered and scared into taking the lead and the truth may do the job if it is delivered by DoD messenger. If our objective is decisive, preemptive action and defending ourselves from Extinction by NEO, and not just funding grants for more studies generating more observations and statistics - consider that for the United States Military 'On My Watch' is forever!
The fate of Mankind is out there. We must be out there to deal with it. Ad Martem!
US Navy: Join The Navy - Save The World
As democracy and peace continue to breakout around the world and new technologies enable other branches of the military to contribute to the mission of Projecting Power and protecting the interests of the United States, the scale of the traditional role of the US Navy is becoming challenged. It would be unfortunate to see the most effective agency the world has ever seen fall waste to obsolescence because it did its job so well. However, if you consider that in Projecting Power, what the US Navy has learned to do best is develop and execute a highly efficient and effective logistical system, there may be alternatives to obsolescence. The challenges of space travel and colonizing Mars are nothing if not a logistical problem.
Historically, peacetime navies have always served as the vehicle for exploration and empire building. The mission of establishing a base colony on Mars to defend Earth is no different from the missions navies have been given in the past - except that here there are no new people to conquer just a new world - a world that nonetheless will not be settled until it has been conquered. There is not much about Mars that could be seen as welcoming or anything but hostile to Mankind and is no place for civilian policies, procedures and disciplines… yet.
The US Navy has long enjoyed what has arguably been the largest budget for any agency in world history - military or civilian. They have more experience handling large sums of money (logistics) than most governments and would consider it a skill they do not want to loose even though the need for the forces and technologies those budgets afforded are needed less and less. For new conquests and victories sailors need only raise their eyes above the mast and look to Mars. The Navy can maintain its role as guardian and shield, it needs only to expand its responsibilities to all of Mankind and its Mission into Space. The enemy now is our own Solar System made dangerous by its smallest members. The Navy can keep its budget and even expand it. They need only assume the mission to go where no man has gone before and deal with a threat that can destroy us all in an instant. The US Navy needs to go to Mars.
It would be unlikely that the US Navy would have to take this mission on its own. Once it becomes evident that the United States is going to Mars the rest of the nations of the world will invariably insist on going along as well - whether they have a navy or not. No one with a check book will be left behind. Such leaps of human endeavor are what often fire the imaginations of repressed peoples and often bring about change - modernization. Such a cascade should not be hard to manage for a skillful State Department.
Yesterday a new recruit could Join the Navy and 'See' the World. He knew he would serve his country and may put himself in harm's way far from home. Tomorrow the threat will no longer come from some foreign shore but from space. The deal he will be signing up for tomorrow will be Join the Navy and 'Save' The World. That is not a big step in the mind set of the US Navy. Sailors would still be serving their country and going into harm's way far from home only now it would be in service to the world and all of Mankind as well.
As a core, US Navy personnel would jump start any large scale space program. Most systemic policies, procedures and disciplines required for the mastery of space are already in place and Standard Operating Procedure. The skill sets and experience, particularly those of the Submarine Service, are as close to anticipated requirements as can be expected outside of training and conditioning dedicated to the rigors of space. They are trained to do sensitive and complicated tasks confined in close quarters and working conditions while at the same time putting their lives at risk in a hostile environment for months at a time. There will likely be more room in a spacecraft than most submarine billets afford. From SEALs, Torpedomen and Missileers to Command, Navigation and Nuclear Engineering as a candidate group, US Navy personnel are Locked, Cocked and Ready to Kill Rocks from Mars.
Gaiashield would be a catalyst - a draft proposal outlining a dynamic and preemptive plan of action. As such it not only suggests saving Mankind from Extinction by NEO but as a consequence of implementing such a program:
• Unite the Nations of Earth in common cause (Win)
It is difficult to imagine that any downside could not be assimilated by one of the above.
For decades much of our civilization's strategic technological potential (fusion, robotics, genetics, mass transportation) has been retarded by the Day to Day and Quarterly economic imperatives of the Status Quo - Jobs and Profits. However, as a result the world has managed to build the discretionary wealth and vigor we need to effectively address a problem of this magnitude. It may not always be this way, everyday natural disasters like global warming, famine, plague, war, or just a cultural shift away from the holy grails of Consumerism and Progress may diminish our capabilities to subsistence levels. We could regress so far as to loose even the ability to see NEOShiva coming when she does.
To save ourselves we can not hesitate to look beyond what we can now only imagine. Defending our planet and preserving our species may only lie in doing what is now wholly unimaginable. If we are to survive we must take our evolution into our own hands; punctuate our equilibrium. We cannot begin to defend against extinction too soon. The alternative may be everything you love dead and dying before your eyes because your species failed to deal with a simple and common act of nature - failed to adapt, and died... and did not have to.
Vote For Planetary Defense:
USN Chief of Information
NEO Reference Links
NEOGraFX courtesy of David A. Hardy
NEO White Paper
NEO White Paper W/GS Commentary
Environmental Damage from Asteroid and Comet Impacts
NASA Asteroid and Comet Impact Hazards
NASA Asteroid and Comet Impact Hazard FAQ
NASA/JPL NEO Program
NASA/JPL Potentially Hazardous Asteroids
NASA/JPL NEAT (Near Earth Asteroid Tracking)
US Navy Space Command
Tsunami From Asteroid Impacts
Will a Killer Asteroid Hit the Earth? Leon Jaroff
NEO News - David Morrison, NASA/Ames
Explorezone - Asteroids
NASA NEO Impact Gallery