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B612 Foundation Statement on Second Anniversary of Chelyabinsk Asteroid Impact

Press Release From: B612 Foundation
Posted: Thursday, February 12, 2015

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Statement from Dr. Ed Lu on the Anniversary of the Chelyabinsk Asteroid Impact

The week of February 15th is a good time to remember the fact that asteroids do hit our planet. It was only two years ago that an asteroid just 20 meters across exploded over the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia, injuring more than 1,500 people and causing millions of dollars in damage. Just hours before the Chelyabinsk airburst, the world was watching another  asteroid, DA-14, fly by Earth at a distance closer to us than most orbiting communications satellites. And, even more recently, Asteroid 2004 BL86—at almost half a kilometer wide—zoomed past our planet at a speed of almost 35,000 m.p.h. on Monday, January 26, 2015.

So, is this something we should be concerned about? My answer is that some people should be concerned about it so that others can go about their daily business. The B612 Foundation is leading the first privately managed deep space mission with the goal to protect our world from the impact of devastating asteroids. The fact of the matter is that asteroid impacts can be prevented using technology we can employ right now. And unlike other potentially global scale catastrophic events, the solution is nearly purely a technical one, and with a relatively small and known cost.  So as my friend former Apollo 9 astronaut and co-founder of the B612 Foundation Rusty Schweickart says, “Let’s get on with it.”  

So what do we need to do to protect the Earth from asteroid impacts?  The surprising answer is that we must find the asteroids that will hit the Earth.  As the recently retired former head of JPL’s NEO Program and asteroid expert Donald Yeomans famously said when talking about the best way to deal with Near-Earth Asteroids that pose a threat to Earth: “Find them early, find them early, find them early…”.  As long as we know early enough about an asteroid that will hit the Earth (meaning many years and hundreds of millions of miles away from hitting Earth), it is actually not that difficult to deflect that asteroid. In most cases simply running into the offending asteroid with a small spacecraft is sufficient.  

So how do we find those asteroids?  The B612 Foundation is building the Sentinel Space Telescope which will give us advance warning of where asteroids are and where they are headed, and it will see them far enough in advance so that we have time to move them out of Earth’s path.

In fact, sometime in the next decade, the Sentinel Mission is likely to discover an asteroid on course to hit Earth. And while that asteroid will probably be only about the size of the asteroid that hit Chelyabinsk, that means that we may soon witness the first mission to deflect an asteroid to protect our planet. It is hard to believe that science and technology have advanced to this point. We live in truly amazing times.  

Dr. Ed Lu, a three-time US Shuttle Astronaut and former lead for Google Special Projects, is co-founder and CEO of the B612 Foundation.

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Sentinel Mission leadership have appeared as expert spokespersons on CBS 60 Minutes, NBC Nightly News, ABC Nightline, CNN, BBC, NHK Discovery and PBS, and featured in the New York Times, The Washington Post, USA TODAY, Financial Times, WIRED, SCIENCE, Popular Science, AP, Reuters and numerous other online publications speaking about Asteroids and the solution to solving the only natural disaster we know how to prevent.

DR. ED LU

Co-Founder of the B612 Foundation and CEO of the Sentinel Mission; three-time flown NASA astronaut and first American to launch as the Flight Engineer aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft; spent 206 days aboard the International Space Station; former lead for Google’s Advanced Projects Team and consultant to Liquid Robotics has taken a leading role in the detection, tracking and development of solutions to prevent asteroid impacts of Earth. Recognition includes NASA’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Medal, as well as the NASA Exceptional Service Medal.

RUSTY SCHWEICKART

Apollo 9 Astronaut and first Lunar Module Pilot; Co-founder & Chairman Emeritus of the B612; founder of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) and ASE-USA president; founder and chair of the ASE-NEO Committee, which, with its international Panel on Asteroid Threat Mitigation, produced and submitted to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) the seminal report Asteroid Threats: A Call for Global Response; co-chaired with astronaut Tom Jones, NASA Advisory Council’s Task Force on Planetary Defense; and Assistant to the Governor of California for Science and Technology, and chairman of the California Energy Commission.

DR. SCOTT HUBBARD

Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University and director of the Stanford Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation; 35-year veteran of the space business, including 20 years with NASA, culminating as director of NASA’s Ames Research Center and the sole NASA representative on the Columbia Accident Investigation Board; NASA’s first Mars program director and successfully restructured the entire Mars program in the wake of mission failures; founder of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute, conceived the Mars Pathfinder mission with its airbag landing, and was the manager for NASA’s highly successful Lunar Prospector Mission; staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and author: Exploring Mars: Chronicles from a Decade of Discovery, describing his work on NASA’s Mars Program.

DR. HAROLD REITSEMA

Mission Director, Sentinel Space Telescope Mission; Planetary astronomer with +30 years experience in the design and building of interplanetary spacecraft and astronomical imaging detectors.; former Ball Aerospace lead designer of the Hubble Space Telescope; principal investigator for NASA Planetary Instrument Design; Flight Project Manager of the Sub-millimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite instrument program, and lead systems engineer in support of science teams for several NASA science instrument programs, including the GIOTTO mission that flew past Halley’s Comet in 1986, and discovered satellites of Saturn and Neptune.

Full bios and photos and video available at: http://sentinelmission.org

About the B612 Foundation’s Sentinel Mission

The B612 Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c) 3 organization dedicated to protecting our planet from asteroid impacts. The organization is designing and building the first privately funded and managed interplanetary space mission called the Sentinel Mission. During its more than six-year mission, the Sentinel Space Telescope, the most sensitive infrared telescope ever built, will find and track threatening asteroids to protect Earth from dangerous asteroid impacts.

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