How would you prioritize dangers to humanity’s continued existence? Just on this show, we’ve talked extensively about climate change, food security, even natural disasters like earthquakes. But we’ve ignored one threat that is often talked about in scientific circles - the dangers of asteroids. The earth and moon are both scarred with thousands of asteroid impacts - so minor, some devastating like the impact that is associated with the die off the dinosaurs.
Just a few weeks back, NASA identified a new asteroid 2015 TB145 - a 400 meter wide asteroid that flew by the earth - came to within 300K miles. From detection to flyby was only a few weeks in this case. While there are no concerns about this particular asteroid impacting the earth, there are millions of asteroids that could be on a collision path, and we currently have a limited ability to track them.
This week, I talked with Ed Lu, former astronaut and CEO of the b612 foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to launching a satellite to better detect these Near Earth objects. We discussed the threat, the economics to get an effective system in place, how long that system would last, and finally if we detect an asteroid what we can do about it.