Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How NASA is failing us all

NASA blasted by inspector-general Paul Martin for not properly protecting us from asteroids 

If this happened ... would NASA see it coming?
If this happened ... would NASA see it coming? Source: ThinkStock
 
NASA’s effort to identify potentially dangerous space rocks has taken a hit. 

The space agency’s inspector-general released a report blasting NASA’s Near Earth Objects program, which is meant to hunt and catalogue comets, asteroids and relatively large fragments of these objects that pass within 45 million kilometres of Earth.

The purpose is to protect the planet against their potential dangers.

Most near-Earth objects harmlessly disintegrate before reaching Earth’s surface. But there are exceptions, like the nearly 20m meteor that exploded over Russia in 2013, causing considerable damage.

NASA: To make oxygen on Mars in next decade

Critical report ... NASA will fall well short of its goals.
Critical report ... NASA will fall well short of its goals. Source: ThinkStock
 
In a 44-page report, Inspector-General Paul Martin said the Near Earth Objects program needs to be better organised and managed, with a bigger staff.

NASA’s science mission chief, former astronaut John Grunsfeld, agreed and promised the problems will be fixed.

“NASA places a high priority on finding and characterising hazardous asteroids to protect our home planet from them” he said in a statement.

According to the report, the program has an executive at NASA headquarters and two offices in Massachusetts and California, each with six employees.

For nearly a decade, the report noted, NASA has been tracking near-Earth objects bigger than 140m across. The goal was to catalogue 90 per cent by 2020.

The space agency has discovered and plotted the orbits of more than 11,000 near-Earth objects since 1998, an estimated 10 per cent. It does not expect to meet the 2020 deadline.

The program has insufficient oversight, Martin’s office concluded, and no established milestones to track progress. In addition, NASA needs to do a better job of overseeing the various observatories searching for near-Earth objects, and teaming up with other US and international agencies, the report said.

news.com.au 16 Sep 2014

While it may be perceived as NASA failing us all, it should be pointed out that NASA functions covertly as a military operation, where if the US government declares any information to be published as a 'security risk' (to the authorities and NOT the general populous) the information is not made public.

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