Lu began by noting that deflecting lethal asteroids is the easy part. We know how to do it and already have the needed technology. Years before a threatening asteroid converges with Earth, we can ram it from behind with a rocket with the precise amount of energy needed to speed it up just enough to miss our planet and keep on missing us in the future.
Funding such a mission will be straightforward. Once you know when (and even where) a catastrophic impact will occur, there will be abundant motivation to pay for heading it off. With good sky reconnaissance, we’ll have years of warning. But that reconnaissance doesn’t exist yet.
As I do several times each year since they first began, I’ve been catching up the Long Now Seminar’s on Long Term Thinking. Much as love hearing visions of Starship programs and DeExtinction projects, it was former astronaut Ed Lu’s talk (above) that really leapt out. Because it is both fantastic and realistic, and immediate. And necessary.
Lu spoke about the consequences of the Overview Effect:http://www.vimeo.com/55073825
We have to start acting as one species, with one destiny. We are not going to survive if we don’t do that.
Coming back to Earth a changed man, and wanting to do something real. Long story, short (you can hear it all above, after all), he’s founded the B612 Foundation. Their self-assigned mission, to build and launch Sentinel:
The Sentinel Mission will provide a unique opportunity for the public to take ownership in a historic space mission that will protect Earth, while providing the necessary roadmap for future exploration.
Sentinel is a space-based infrared (IR) survey mission to discover and catalog 90 percent of the asteroids larger than 140 meters in Earth’s region of the solar system. The mission should also discover a significant number of smaller asteroids down to a diameter of 30 meters. Sentinel will be launched into a Venus-like orbit around the sun, which significantly improves the efficiency of asteroid discovery during its 6.5 year mission.
They’re aiming to share resources with NASA, and funding it via philanthropy and donations from the public. And whilst I view philanthropy as the benevolence of those that have accrued wealth through various forms of economic and legal force, it’s better that those funds get directed toward doing something other purely cosmetic, vanity projects. We simply don’t have time to linearly fix all world’s problems. The pragmatist in me maintains that the rescue mission must accomplished by whatever means are available.
Which brings us to the newly created, half jesting, semi-fictional, deadly serious Overview Effect Enforcement Agency. The product of a conversation between some creatively titled futurist folks on Twitter, it exists, if only as a rescue-lutionary theory object, to encourage the sending of the world’s leaders into low-earth orbit for a cognitive readjustment. A tactic deployed by Picard in an episode of Star Trek: TNG, to correct his own elevation to godhood. As recent political theater events of extreme dramatis demonstrate, it’s sorely needed. And as I suggested: if they learn something, they can come back too.
Because there are more threats to the world than just the ego’s of political leaders and billionaires. Like Lazarus Comets:
“We found a graveyard of comets,” said Ferrín. “Imagine all these asteroids going around the Sun for aeons, with no hint of activity. We have found that some of these are not dead rocks after all, but are dormant comets that may yet come back to life if the energy that they receive from the Sun increases by a few per cent.”
Resurrected space rocks don’t discriminate on imaginary human divisions of map, religion or creed. We can learn something from them. We can be bigger, grow up, build out into the solar system, and beyond. It’s just an idea. But what else has ever changed the world than that?