Mission portends key advances in science and technology of planetary protection

Washington, DC – Jan 12, 2005 The National Space Society and the B612 Foundation hailed today’s launch of the Deep Impact mission as a critical step forward for both the exploration of space and the protection of planet Earth.

“The science of Deep Impact will teach us vital lessons about the internal structure of comets and the composition of the early solar system,” said George Whitesides, Executive Director of NSS. “Equally important will be the mission’s technological advances.”

“If successful, Deep Impact will be the first mission to physically intercept a comet’s nucleus, and as such will demonstrate a critical milestone in humanity’s capacity to protect our planet from Near Earth Objects (NEO’s).”

Comets and asteroids compose the two categories of NEO’s with the potential to devastate life on Earth. The high-speed interception mission of the Deep Impact probe must be followed by later missions to mitigate the danger of such objects, building on continued efforts to find and map their locations.

The B612 Foundation was established to advocate the demonstration of the next major step in planetary protection: to significantly alter the orbit of an asteroid in a controlled manner. This goal is endorsed by NSS, and will be a key focus during the upcoming annual conference of the society in Washington DC in May.

NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration and its ongoing NEO research programs can build the systems and technologies needed for asteroid interception and mitigation. Programs like Project Prometheus, Deep Impact and human exploration technologies will form the foundation for the most important space mission possible: saving planet Earth.

Rusty Schweickart, Apollo 9 astronaut and Chairman of the B612 Foundation, concluded:

“Using the advanced technologies embedded in NASA’s Prometheus program we can demonstrate within the next several years that we can protect the planet from asteroid impacts. This is a critically important public confidence builder and B612 Foundation urges NASA to adopt asteroid deflection demonstration as an early Prometheus mission.”

About the National Space Society

The National Space Society (NSS) is an independent, grassroots organization dedicated to the creation of a spacefaring civilization. Founded in 1974, NSS is widely acknowledged as the preeminent citizen’s voice on space. NSS counts thousands of members and over 50 chapters in the United States and around the world. The society also publishes Ad Astra magazine, an award-winning periodical chronicling the most important developments in space. For more information about NSS, how to join or donate, or the annual International Space Development Conference, visit: http://www.nss.org

About the B612 Foundation

B612 Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation founded in 2002 by a small group of astronomers, astronauts and engineers. Its goal is to change the orbit of an asteroid, in a controlled manner by 2015 in order to demonstrate that human society has the technological capability and know-how to protect the planet from future asteroid impacts. The Foundation’s conviction is that doing is the best way to learn. Its website is: http://www.b612foundation.org

National Space Society
George Whitesides
Executive Director
Email: george@nss.org
Telephone: (202) 429-1600

B612 Foundation
Rusty Schweickart
Telephone: (415) 713-6272