Behind NASA's Armageddon-Style Effort to Stop Earthbound Asteroids (Video)
When you cut to the core of it, our ongoing mission here at Treehugger is to document the various ways that people, businesses, and governments are scrambling to save the world. Some do so incrementally, maybe by lobbying for more stringent air pollution rules or moving their companies to adopt recycling measures. Others do it action-hero style, single-handedly halting land auctions to oil companies—or preparing for a deep space mission to knock an earthbound asteroid out of its trajectory. Yes, like Armageddon.
Which is precisely why I think that this new video from my colleagues over at Motherboard (full disclosure; I'm an editor over there) is particularly relevant. As famed astronomer Neil DeGrasse Tyson puts it, NASA's elaborate program to prepare contingency plans for such an event is like having "asteroid insurance."
An asteroid is rather unlikely to hit Earth anytime soon, but the chances that we'll eventually get clobbered are a "statistical certainty," as one NASA rep says. As such, we should be gladly funding such efforts to prepare—especially because the research accomplished in the process leads to all sorts of other breakthroughs and knowledge dumps. Yet NASA's Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) is about to get the axe in the latest round of budget cuts.
It's a familiar tale; science programs get the axe while the terrestrial defense budget balloons and taxes on the rich fall. I, for one, would rather see NASA land a man on an asteroid than buy a new mega-drone for Afghanistan.