By Ed Lu, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Ed Lu is a former NASA astronaut and current founder and CEO of the B612 Foundation. His mission is to build the world’s most powerful asteroid tracking system to find asteroids on a collision course with earth. Watch his full story this Saturday at 2:30p ET on CNN’s “The Next List.”
Next week on May 31, 2013, a 1.7 mile wide asteroid, 1998 QE2, will fly past the Earth at a distance of 3.6 million miles.
If this asteroid were to hit the Earth (don't worry, it won't this time), it would be the end of human civilization. Think about that. Not only would it kill billions of people, but it would take with it our very history. Gone would be our cities, our culture, our languages, our art, our music, our scientific knowledge - everything that we as a species have built up during the past 10,000 years. Gone in an instant.
Asteroid impacts are the only global scale natural disaster we know how to prevent. We have the technology to deflect asteroids, but we cannot deflect an asteroid that we haven't found yet. This is why the B612 Foundation is building the Sentinel Space Telescope, the world's most powerful asteroid detection and tracking system, to see the millions of asteroids we can't see today and could pose threats to our planet. The B612 Foundation is a nonprofit organization, dependent on private donations for our mission. We welcome you to join our efforts at the B612 Foundation and help protect not only our planet, but our future.
Editor’s Note: Ed Lu is an explorer who loves mapping the unknown – whether it’s the oceans at Liquid Robotics, our neighborhoods, leading Google Advanced Projects Teams, or unveiling the secrets of the inner solar system and saving the world with the B612 Foundation, where he serves as CEO. A NASA Astronaut, he’s flown three missions, logging 206 days in space to construct and live aboard the International Space Station. Watch Ed Lu’s full plan to save the world, this Sunday 2:30 P.M. E.T. on “The Next List”
By Ed Lu, Special to CNN
Today's meteor explosion over Chelyabinsk is a reminder that the Earth orbits the Sun in a shooting gallery of asteroids, and that these asteroids sometimes hit the Earth. Later today, a separate and larger asteroid, 2012 DA14, will narrowly miss the Earth passing beneath the orbits of our communications satellites. We have the technology to deflect asteroids, but we cannot do anything about the objects we don't know exist.
Discovered just one year ago by an amateur citizen observer, 2012 DA14 will fly only 17 thousand miles above Earth - the distance the Earth travels in just 15 minutes, and not much longer than many people travel on common air flights. So this truly is a close shave. In fact, 2012 DA14 will pass underneath our communications satellites as it flies by Earth.
This particular object is not large for an asteroid; it is about 160 feet across or roughly the size of an office building. It is not going to hit us on February 15, but it should serve as a wake-up call for planetary defense. Consider that just 105 years ago, an asteroid slightly smaller than this struck Earth in Siberia near Tunguska and completely flattened a forested area of 1000 square miles, an expanse larger than New York City or Washington D.C.
2012 DA14 is what is known as a near-Earth asteroid because its orbit crosses Earth’s orbit and it may therefore someday run into Earth. Millions of these asteroids exist, we just can’t see them from Earth. Of the million asteroids as large as or larger than 2012 DA14, we have only tracked less than 10,000. That we knew ahead of time that 2012 DA14 would buzz by Earth is really only a matter of luck. Ninety nine percent of the time we are oblivious to such impending flybys, simply because we currently don’t have the means to map and track the other 99 percent.
We established the non-profit B612 Foundation to protect humanity from asteroid impacts and, at the same time, open space to future exploration. Our Sentinel Mission is an infrared space telescope that we will launch and place in orbit around the Sun. From its vantage point looking back at Earth’s orbit, Sentinel will discover, map and track the trajectories of asteroids whose orbits approach Earth and threaten humanity. We will be the first privately funded, launched and operated interplanetary mission, and the most ambitious private space mission in history.
The Sentinel Map will give us decades of advance notice of an impending impact so that deflection becomes relatively easy. There are several promising technologies including kinetic impactors, gravity tractors and nuclear standoff explosions. The urgency in completing the map arises because there could be an impact in the next few decades. With only a few years' notice, the task of deflecting an asteroid becomes extremely difficult, to the point where it could become almost impossible (depending on the size of the asteroid) using current technology. Every year delayed in completing Sentinel increases our chances of having no available options. Why take this risk?
The chances in 90 years (roughly your lifetime) of Earth being hit by another asteroid like at Tunguska is about one in three. Shouldn’t we know in advance of the next asteroid impact, and actually prevent it?
Editors Note: Ed Lu is a former NASA astronaut and current CEO of the B612 Foundation. His goal is to build a space telescope that will detect possibly cataclysmic asteroids headed for Earth. Watch more about Ed Lu’s incredible mission this Sunday 2:30 P.M. E.T. (all-new time!) on “The Next List.”
He calls it the biggest environmental project imaginable. Ed Lu believes one of the biggest threats to the planet isn’t even on the Earth, it’s in space. Asteroids.
Ed Lu says asteroids hit earth all the time. “Really small ones are just the shooting stars you see when you look up in the sky,” says Lu. “Larger ones, like the one that hit Tunguska in Siberia, those hit about every couple hundred years.” In 1908 an asteroid about 130 feet wide hit Tunguska Siberia with a force that was 1000 times stronger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It totally destroyed an area the size of the San Francisco bay area. They happen more frequently than we realize – and there are no guarantees that the next one won’t hit a city. “There is about a 50 percent chance in your lifetime that another explosion of that size is going to happen somewhere on earth,” says Lu.
And here’s the really scary part: right now we’re only able to detect about one percent of the asteroids that are actually orbiting near Earth. The reality, says Lu, is that there are 100 times more asteroids than that.
“That’s about a million near Earth asteroids that are larger than the one that hit in Tunguska in 1908,” he said.
But Lu has a solution.
He is building one of the most powerful space telescopes in the world, called The Sentinel. It will launch in 2018 and orbit the sun, which means it will be between 30 million and 170 million miles from Earth. To put it in perspective, that’s about 500,000 times further from Earth than the Hubble space telescope.
By John D. Sutter, CNN
(CNN) - Forget Rick Moranis glasses, starchy button-ups and pocket protectors.
Meet the new generation at NASA: Bobak Ferdowsi, better known as "Mohawk Guy." Ferdowsi was spotted wearing a red-and-black mohawk with yellow stars dyed on the sides of his head during the U.S. space agency's overnight landing of its Mars rover, "Curiosity."
The Internet quickly turned him into a meme, superimposing text like "The Mohawk That Landed a Rover on Mars" and "Becomes an Internet sensation ... Too busy landing a robot on Mars to notice" over his images.
In case you'd forgotten, here's what the old guard at NASA looked like: FULL POST
By Richard Galant, CNN
(CNN) – Years before Bill Nye became the Science Guy, he was a mechanical engineering student at Cornell University, where he took a course with astronomer Carl Sagan.
Sagan, who was instrumental in the planning of NASA missions to other planets and became widely known for his research, writing and public television series, was one of the founders of the Planetary Society. And his student dutifully signed up to become a member.
"I've been a member for over 30 years. And now I'm the head guy, it's quite odd," a surprised-sounding Nye told CNN in an interview in March at the TED2012 conference in Long Beach, California.