Op-ed | Mars footprints or planetary defense?
The U.S. Senate should soon be tasked with confirming the next NASA administrator. Their decision has a very low priority on the list of the many issues facing our nation, but this old retired NASA engineer believes that could be a deadly miscalculation.
There are asteroids and comets that are passing dangerously close to our planet and today we have no defense from these deep space threats. On April 19, asteroid 2014 J025, over 2,000 feet in length and nicknamed The Rock, came within 1 million miles of Earth. On March 2, a “small” asteroid identified by NASA’s Near Earth Object Program Office as Asteroid 2017 EA came within 9,000 miles of impacting on our planet. According to one space authority, if the asteroid was an iron meteoroid and entered the Earth’s atmosphere there could have been an explosion equal to the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.
What is concerning is the increased frequency of these near misses and their discovery, in some cases has been just weeks before a possible Earth impact. Why has NASA ignored these deep space threats when we have the technology to develop a planetary defense system that could discover, identify, and deter asteroid/comet impacts on Earth?
What NASA’s spaceflight management has done is to steadfastly refuse to recognize that we need a commercial space shuttle freighter which could provide low-cost space launches and rapid access to low Earth orbit…the required first step to a viable planetary defense system. Instead they are trying to revert to their past glory by developing an Apollo Saturn class rocket and crew module to send humans to the moon or Mars.
To promote their human deep space boondoggle they have falsely claimed that the launcher and crew module is “safe, affordable, and sustainable.” Their human return to the moon program was cancelled because it was deemed unaffordable and the Mars program is faced with unsolved technical and health related issues and a projected cost of $210 billion by 2033. A NASA safety panel was forced by this engineer to concede that their human space vehicles are “not significantly safer than the (decommissioned) Space Shuttle.”
The Trump administration is aware of NASA’s failing Mars program and the need for a planetary defense system, but has remained silent. If President Trump appoints a NASA administrator who will not make planetary defense NASA’s number one priority, how do you want your senator to vote on their confirmation? Contact your senator today. The sky really is falling!