Broadcast 1172 (Special Edition)

The Space Foundation Conference

12 Jun 2009 Rusty Schweickart
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Guest: Rusty Schweickart. Topics: Planetary defense, Near Earth Objects (NEO). Former astronaut Rusty Schweickart returned to The Space Show today to update us on what is happening with efforts to develop and deploy a planetary protection policy for NEOs. Two websites you should visit for more information on this subject and to follow along with Mr. Schweickart are the Association of Space Explorers (http://www.space-explorers.org/ ) and the B612 Foundation (http://www.b612foundation.org/). As we began our discussion, Rusty updated us on what has been happening within the field of planetary defense, the most recent UN COPOUS meetings, and international efforts on behalf of planetary protection. We spoke about the technical and engineering part of deflecting an incoming object but we soon understood that the most difficult part was the geopolitical process involved in creating policy and taking action. As for the costs, Rusty explained that this was a very low cost program and you will want to hear his explanation of this which came up several times during the program. At one point, he referred to the costs as "chump change." We also talked about planetary protection being made a priority of NASA and its new NASA administration as well as the administration in Washington, DC. We all remain optimistic that this will be the case. Questions came up about the 12,600 year period that is often used so note the discussion on this issue. We also talked at length about orbital and space debris as part of the problem. While the two issues are related, Rusty made a very good point in that space/orbital debris is about man made objects orbiting Earth that can endanger man made assets in space. As important and serious as this is, planetary protection is about naturally occurring events that have the potential to seriously impact Earth and our civilization. In response to a listener question, we learned that the Europeans and others are more serious and involved with planetary protection than the United States has been in the past. Later in the program we talked about the Tunguska event and Rusty pointed out the search for objects was the key issue. We then talked about the size of objects and what size meant for planetary protection issues. A listener asked about the NEOSAT Canadian project. You will want to hear what Rusty had to say about this excellent but small program and programs like it. Over and over during the program, Rusty stressed two points: (1) The search and early warning for potentially dangerous objects; (2) Deflection. If you have questions or comments for Rusty Schweickart about this program or any of the issues or topics discussed, please send them to him through me at drspace@thespaceshow.com.

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