June 19, 2013, 1:35 PM —
Image credit: Flickr/INDELIBLEMISTAKES
Imagine the Pentagon holding a press conference to announce it would like all able-bodied Americans to take up their flintlocks and help out our military as it defends our nation.
Isn't that sort of what NASA is doing by, as Reuters puts it, calling "on backyard astronomers and other citizen-scientists on Tuesday to help track asteroids that could create havoc on Earth"?
This strikes me as an important job, and while I'm all for crowd-sourcing, it's sort of weird that a federal agency with all the best telescopes and all those highly qualified scientists is turning to weekend astronomers to protect our planet. I'm pretty sure the dinosaurs relied on a similar Neighborhood Watch program, and look what happened to them.
"Since 1998, NASA’s Near Earth Object Observation (NEOO) Program has led the global effort to find potentially hazardous asteroids, and has successfully found 95% of the near-Earth asteroids larger than 1km within the last 15 years," NASA says. "But the work is not over, as estimates suggests that less than 10% of objects smaller than 300 meters in diameter and less than 1% of objects smaller than 100 meters in diameter have been discovered, and it will take a global effort with innovative solutions to accelerate the completion of the survey of potentially hazardous asteroids."
Interestingly, NASA assures us that "while not imminent, the threat is real," even as it admits it can't find the vast majority of "potentially hazardous asteroids"!
NASA will host a Google+ Hangout session on June 27 at 2 p.m. EDT to answer questions about the asteroid initiative and the asteroid redirect mission. Here's a question someone should ask: "Seriously, how close are we to being destroyed?"
There's a video below of the NASA event on Tuesday at which the asteroid "Grand Challenge" was announced. However, it's two hours long; your time might be better used watching the skies.