NASA Founds The Official Planetary Defense Office

NASA Founds The Official Planetary Defense Office

Planetary Defense Officer might be the most badass job title NASA's created yet.

Are you a tough as nails hero looking for work? Won't settle for anything less than saving the world? Well, great news! NASA has created a new organization dedicated to precisely your line of work: The Planetary Defense Coordination Office. Members of this elite branch will be responsible for tracking asteroids and other deadly near-Earth Objects. And when one such object poses a threat to humanity? Planetary Defense Officers will be responsible for coordinating efforts to knock them off course with extreme prejudice.

"Asteroid detection, tracking and defense of our planet is something that NASA, its interagency partners, and the global community take very seriously," John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington explained. "While there are no known impact threats at this time, the 2013 Chelyabinsk super-fireball and the recent 'Halloween Asteroid' close approach remind us of why we need to remain vigilant and keep our eyes to the sky."

NASA has detected over 13,500 near-Earth objects of varying sizes across its history, and now finds roughly 1500 new objects each year. For that reason, this organization will be a central office tasked with asteroid detection and impact mitigation. Officers will be responsible for tracking NEOs in our skies while posting warnings and close pass reports for the public. The office will also create disaster response plans alongside FEMA and the Department of Defense, in case an impact turns out to be unavoidable.

We even have our first Planetary Defense Officer - which I can't stress enough, is an actual job position that currently exists. The coveted role goes to Lindley Johnson, longtime executive of the NEO program. "The formal establishment of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office makes it evident that the agency is committed to perform a leadership role in national and international efforts for detection of these natural impact hazards, and to be engaged in planning if there is a need for planetary defense," Johnson said, presumably while chewing up asteroids and spitting out pebbles.

Okay, I'll admit that the actual work of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office involves more meetings and paperwork than it would drop-kicking a comet. But all the same, there is now an office dedicated to planetary defense, which is basically a sci-fi movie fan's dream come true.

Godspeed, Planetary Defense Coordination Office. Godspeed.

Source: NASA

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Ah, so this is what Homeworld Command and Stargate Command have been up to lately.

Though in all seriousness, while this is cool the acronym is really disappointing. In science fiction we get cool stuff like the SGC, UNSC or SWORD, but in reality we have to settle for OPDO? Weak.

Zontar:
Ah, so this is what Homeworld Command and Stargate Command have been up to lately.

Though in all seriousness, while this is cool the acronym is really disappointing. In science fiction we get cool stuff like the SGC, UNSC or SWORD, but in reality we have to settle for OPDO? Weak.

Well, PDCO, but your point remains.

Let's also not forget that while the full title is impressive, Mr. Johnson is now also a PDO.

And they don't have Bruce Willis, Will Smith, Captain Picard, a single Jaeger, or every 3rd Dwayne The Rock Johnson character.
So I guess we know how seriously they're taking global security.

jurnag12:

Zontar:
Ah, so this is what Homeworld Command and Stargate Command have been up to lately.

Though in all seriousness, while this is cool the acronym is really disappointing. In science fiction we get cool stuff like the SGC, UNSC or SWORD, but in reality we have to settle for OPDO? Weak.

Well, PDCO, but your point remains.

Let's also not forget that while the full title is impressive, Mr. Johnson is now also a PDO.

Fair enough, but remember: Johnson can now legitimately answer the phone with "Johnson, Planetary Defense".

If any of you feel like actually funding a system for doing something about potential asteroid threats: http://asteroiddefence.com/

The funding is going extremely slowly, their biggest hurdle has been spreading the message widely enough.

While it's cool that NASA decided to name their detection program, I doubt their DART system will get off the ground. Politicians don't give a shit and are not at all willing to risk their career on what's being seen as "frivolous".
This crowdfunding program is only the first step in actually creating a defense, but the most important part is actually bringing up the discussion and making it a priority, so our actual governments start funding this system.

For what it's worth, I can at least tell you that the founder is a pretty damn cool guy who enjoys almost all aspects of gaming and geek hobbies, from LARP'ing, pen & paper roleplaying, video games to tabletop gaming. He actually tries to make a difference.

But, y'know, it's cool that NASA at least gets enough money to look at the asteroids and get an awesome title. It's a step in the right direction I guess.

But did anyone think of phoning up Bruce Willis?

Because we all know NASA has a budget to do this right. :-/

Aren't we already covered by AMI?

I have a new life goal.

Nobody's going to give THIS Mr Johnson lemons, because if they do, they'll rue the day they gave Mr Johnson lemons - he's the man who's gonna burn your near-earth object down! With the lemons! He's gonna get his engineers to invent a combustible lemon that burns your near-earth object down!

The ironic thing is that when Hollywood uses the title the first time or two in movies people are going to think it's purely fictional.

Then, one day, folks will realize that the title is true...and we all know what will happen then:[1]

image
[1] You know that NASA geeks were laughing it up because they know this will bring the conspiracy nuts out of the woodwork.

Silentpony:
And they don't have Bruce Willis, Will Smith, Captain Picard, a single Jaeger, or every 3rd Dwayne The Rock Johnson character.
So I guess we know how seriously they're taking global security.

Picard would have been the worst. For some reason it's the one piece of physics the show's writers could never wrap their heads round. I remember one episode where a damaged toxic waste ship was about to crash into a planet, the Enterprise crew decide to fry their warp engines to tow it all the way into the sun rather than just nudge it off course a bit.

Detecting a threat is somewhat easy.
The almost impossible part is building a superweapon capable of dealing with any significant incoming object for monetary and political (international) reasons.
Take a 2 km iron asteroid with a mass of 20.000.000.000 tons coming to us at 30 or more (can be much much more) km/s, how do you deflect THAT in time?

Zontar:
Ah, so this is what Homeworld Command and Stargate Command have been up to lately.

Though in all seriousness, while this is cool the acronym is really disappointing. In science fiction we get cool stuff like the SGC, UNSC or SWORD, but in reality we have to settle for OPDO? Weak.

Could have been EXtraterrestrial COMbat Unit too... Vigilo Confido!

enginieri:
how do you deflect THAT in time?

Depending on how far and how large it is, just placing a satellite next to it could be enough on its own to deflect it through changing its course enough to make it go from being a hit to slingshotting around us.

It is about time they have an office.. not that they can actually do anything about any real threats, but at least they now have a place to get started discussing it. LOL

Now all they need to do is strategically place several of these overclocked babies and shoot everything down that moves. Or away instead of down. We don't want it to drop down on Earth, that's why we are shooting.

Does anyone know why I can't move my cursor in the text box with the arrow keys anymore? This is really annoying.

So we now have an official PDF?

God-Emprah, do you WANT us to get eaten by Tyranids?!

Zontar:

enginieri:
how do you deflect THAT in time?

Depending on how far and how large it is, just placing a satellite next to it could be enough on its own to deflect it through changing its course enough to make it go from being a hit to slingshotting around us.

And sometimes not even having a super-AI satellite and a base in the moon full of babes in mini skirts and purple wigs would be enough to catch them all

BiH-Kira:
Now all they need to do is strategically place several of these overclocked babies and shoot everything down that moves. Or away instead of down. We don't want it to drop down on Earth, that's why we are shooting.

Does anyone know why I can't move my cursor in the text box with the arrow keys anymore? This is really annoying.

It's probably because the gallery in the news post is open, meaning you're just switching pictures by trying to go left or right. Close it and you should be fine.

enginieri:
Detecting a threat is somewhat easy.
The almost impossible part is building a superweapon capable of dealing with any significant incoming object for monetary and political (international) reasons.
Take a 2 km iron asteroid with a mass of 20.000.000.000 tons coming to us at 30 or more (can be much much more) km/s, how do you deflect THAT in time?

This is a question for XKCD, but I'll try my best anyway.

First up is how much you need to deflect it. The Earth's radius is 6371 km (but let's say 7000 for safety). An asteroid aimed directly at the center of the Earth would need to be deflected this amount to prevent it from hitting. An asteroid not aimed dead-center would need to be deflected less.

The change in velocity needed depends on the amount of time until the object hits with a greater change needed for a shorter period of time. You take your 7000 km and divide it by the number of seconds until impact to determine the number of km/s of deflection needed. For instance, if you have a full year that's some thirty-one and a half million seconds which means a difference of 0.00022 km/s (22 cm/s).

Kinetic energy is derived from equation KE = 1/2 * m * v^2. Changing the velocity of a twenty trillion kilogram ton rock by .22 m/s would require 484 billion joules or 116 tons of TNT. Assuming you still have your year left when you plant the bomb.

The full equation for the joules needed to save Earth is:
E = 1/2 * m * ( r / t ) ^ 2 where
E = Energy needed in Joules
m = Mass of the Asteroid in kilograms
r = Radius of the Earth in meters (7 million for safety!)
t = Seconds until impact

You can see that halving the time means quadrupling the energy, so it's best to deal with these things in a hurry lest preserving Earth go over budget!

Beyond expensive, will probably never be utilized, will probably be ineffectual if need be, the resources spent in preparation will exert an ASTRONOMICAL toll on the planet and its inhabitants, and even if space debris large enough to cause a catastrophe hits the planets, life will still go on.

Maphysto:
So we now have an official PDF?

God-Emprah, do you WANT us to get eaten by Tyranids?!

The PDCO tried to organise their first committee meeting earlier this week.

They were killed to a man.

Zontar:
Ah, so this is what Homeworld Command and Stargate Command have been up to lately.

Though in all seriousness, while this is cool the acronym is really disappointing. In science fiction we get cool stuff like the SGC, UNSC or SWORD, but in reality we have to settle for OPDO? Weak.

It could have been worse, If they called themselves the Planetary Defence Force then they would have been PDFs.

Hero in a half shell:

Zontar:
Ah, so this is what Homeworld Command and Stargate Command have been up to lately.

Though in all seriousness, while this is cool the acronym is really disappointing. In science fiction we get cool stuff like the SGC, UNSC or SWORD, but in reality we have to settle for OPDO? Weak.

It could have been worse, If they called themselves the Planetary Defence Force then they would have been PDFs.

Planetary Defence Force would have been a cool enough name to justify the terrible acronym though

 

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