Friday, August 14, 2009

US NEO detection programme not on schedule

In space-related news:

According to a new interim report from the US National Research Council, NASA's current near-Earth object surveys will not meet the congressionally mandated goal of discovering 90 percent of all objects over 140 meters in diameter by 2020. Funding for near-Earth object activities at NASA has been constrained, with most costs being met by funds from other programs.

What a surprise! Underfunded science programmes have difficulty meeting targets! In addition to complaining about funding, the full report (which is free to download) has some interesting information on the current technology and facilities used for detecting near-Earth objects.

Another of the report's findings was that:

The Arecibo Observatory telescope continues to play a unique role in characterization of NEOs, providing unmatched precision and accuracy in orbit determination and insight into size, shape, surface structure, multiplicity, and other physical properties for objects within its declination coverage and detection range.

I find this particularly interesting in the light of concerted efforts in recent years to shut the Arecibo facility down "to save money."

Congress should make up their minds: they can mandate and fund public research, or do neither.

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