Astronauts call for asteroid deflection plan

Yahoo News:

Fortunately, experts believe further observations of the asteroid, 99942 Apophis, will almost certainly rule out an impact in 2036. Nevertheless, it's precisely that kind of predictable and preventable threat — and the thought of being ill-prepared for it — that alarms the world's normally intrepid spacefarers who are calling for action.

They issued an open letter at the Association of Space Explorers' annual congress last month in Salt Lake City, making a rare, united push for strategies and spacecraft to prevent a cosmic pileup.

Two of the astronauts — Apollo 9's Rusty Schweickart and shuttle and space station veteran Ed Lu — have even helped establish a foundation to spotlight the issue.

“There are always natural disasters and it always seems as though the preparation is somewhat less than adequate. But we have had a series of quite substantial ones here in the last year,” Schweickart said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Hollywood's depiction of cosmic collisions — think “Armageddon” and “Deep Impact” — has heightened public awareness, “but regrettably with the wrong solutions and overdramatization,” Schweickart said.

“You don't want to send up Bruce Willis and others to save us. That's Hollywood silliness,” he said, chuckling. Instead, technology is far enough along that an asteroid could be deflected before hitting Earth, he said.

Well, I was with him until he suggested Bruce Willis couldn't save the day. That guy can do anything, even dead. Asteroids wouldn't stand a chance.

But, for a moment, let's suppose that Bruce Willis isn't available to save the day, shooting another of his highly original, oscar worthy movies. We should have a backup plan.

For decades, scientists told us Katrina would happen, the levies would break, and New Orleans would flood. It was inevitable, just a matter of time. Then it happened. (But of course, according to Bush, “No one could have predicted the Levies would break”).

So here we are. People have been predicting one of these things would hit us for decades. It's a given. Somewhere out there, there's an asteroid with our name on it. And the catastrophe is potentially a lot worse than Katrina. So, we got two choices here. Either a leader can step up to the plate and prepare for this eventuality, or we can wait for it to happen and find we have another Michael Brown leading us.

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