(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)
NASA and other space experts took to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology stage recently, and their remarks about possible asteroid doomsday scenarios are a double-edged sword. On one hand, most are confident that no asteroid will strike the Earth in the next century. On the other, it's going to take a lot of money to prevent and clean up - something that seems out of reach thanks to the recent budget cuts.
The emphasis, scientists told Washington, is on the fact that the consequences of a deadly asteroid strike are so much, that if it were to ever happen, it could be more than we could handle as a society.
"The odds are very small, but the potential consequences of such an event are so large, it makes sense to take the risk seriously," John Holdren, a director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, said.
The recent budget cuts have taken a chunk out of many federal programs, including NASA and the space sciences. President Obama has set a goal of landing an astronaut on an asteroid by 2025 - estimated cost: $2 billion over 12 years. Scientists want to create a telescope that will allow them to better hunt for potentially threatening asteroids - estimated cost: up to $750 million. Factor in all the other ambitious projects space agencies have such as putting a man on Mars, and you have a serious bill to pay, and one that probably won't top the government's list of priorities.
It remains to be seen how big a role government will continue to play in space exploration and science. Private companies such as SpaceX have already started replacing services previously relegated to government agencies such as NASA. While it's comforting to know that there is a very slim chance an asteroid will strike our planet during any of our lifetimes, the panel has brought another very important issue into question: For every asteroid we know about, how many go undetected?
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