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The Pentagon's latest test of a missile-defense system went awry. An interceptor rocket launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific failed to strike and destroy a Minuteman II ballistic missile…it missed its target by hundreds of miles…The $80 million test was the third failure since 1999.

- USA Today 12/12/02

Just a few days after another missile defense test failure, the Bush administration goes ahead with plans to build a system anyway…Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, “I like the idea of beginning and putting something in the ground or in the air or at sea.”

”You can’t use an interceptor that doesn’t fly right,” said Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, director of the Defense Department’s Missile defense Agency. “I don’t like where we are with the booster.”

Critics scoffed at the idea that the system is ready to deploy…

”I wouldn’t want to oversell it. I wouldn’t want to suggest that it has a depth or breadth or capability. It will take some time to evolve,” Rumsfeld told a Pentagon news conference…Serious technological problems and delays have dogged the testing and development…numerous scientists and other experts doubt it will ever work.

- Associated Press & USA Today 12/17/02

"More Focused Programs To Assess And Reduce Asteroid Threat Needed," is the title of an article at "NASA should be assigned to lead a new research program to better determine the population and physical diversity of near-Earth objects that may collide with our planet, down to a size of 200 meters, according to the final report of a workshop on the scientific requirements for the mitigation of hazardous comets and asteroids. The workshop's report also recommends that the U.S. Department of Defense work to more rapidly communicate surveillance data on natural airbursts of smaller rocky bodies, and it concludes that governmental policy makers must 'formulate a chain of responsibility' to be better prepared in the event that a threat to Earth becomes known. 'As our discussions proceeded, it became clear that the prime impediment to further advances in this field is the lack of assigned responsibility to any national or international governmental organization,' said planetary scientist Michael Belton, organizer of the September 2002 workshop. 'Since it is part of NASA's newly stated mission to 'understand and protect our home planet,' it seems obvious that this responsibility should reside in NASA.

"Belton presented the findings of the workshop Wednesday in Washington, DC, to officials at NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Office of Management and Budget, and the report was delivered to the U.S. Congress…About 2,225 near-Earth objects (NEOs) have been detected, primarily by ground-based optical searches, in the size range between 10 meters and 30 kilometers, out of a total estimated population of about one million; some information about the physical size and composition of these NEOs is available for only 300 objects. The total number of objects a kilometer in diameter or larger, a size that could cause global catastrophe upon Earth impact, is now estimated to range between 900 and 1,230…

"The workshop report discusses a preliminary roadmap…more complete and accurate surveys of the orbits of potentially hazardous objects…and initial physical experiments toward a realistic plan to intercept and divert a future incoming object…the report estimates that it would take about 25 years to accomplish this roadmap."

- 2/5/03

Mitch Battros of ECTV reports, "Asteroid 2001 YB5 was discovered in early December by the Neat (Near Earth Asteroid Tracking) survey telescope observing from Mount Palomar in California…Astronomers add that it is 'potentially hazardous,' meaning there is a chance that it may strike the Earth sometime in the future…According to experts, the recent discovery and close approach of 2001 YB5 suggests that something nasty could creep up on us at any time. Dr Benny Peiser of Liverpool John Moores University, UK, told BBC News Online: 'The fact that this object was discovered less than a month ago leads to the question of if we would have had enough time to do anything about it had it been on a collision course with us. Of course the answer is no; there is nothing we could have done about it. It is a reminder of the objects that are out there. It is a reminder of what is going to happen unless we track them more efficiently than we do and make better preparations to defend our planet,' says Dr Peiser."

- BBC News & ECTV 9/28/03

In Garden Grove, California, government officials and space scientists attend a "Planetary Protection" conference on asteroids, sponsored by the Aerospace Corp. and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. In a story titled, "Scientists want to be ready to block an asteroid from hitting Earth" the AP reports, "The asteroid believed to have wiped out dinosaurs 65 million years ago was rare but hardly unique, say scientists gathered to discuss ways of aggressively defending our planet from another such space rock…'We shouldn't dawdle in developing a method of deflecting them,' say the scientists attending a four-day planetary defense conference in suburban Orange County. 'It's a thing we know will happen sometime in our future so the responsible thing is for people to do something about it,' said William Ailor.

- Associated Press 2/24/04

"In the past six years of flight tests, here is what the Pentagon's missile-defense agency has demonstrated: A missile can hit another missile in mid-air as long as a) the operators know exactly where the target missile has come from and where it's going; b) the target missile is flying at a slower-than-normal speed; c) it's transmitting a special beam that exaggerates its radar signature, thus making it easier to track; d) only one target missile has been launched; and e) the 'attack' happens in daylight. Beyond that, the program's managers know nothing - in part because they have never run a test that goes beyond this heavily scripted (it would not be too strong to call it 'rigged') scenario…There is, in other words, a vast distance between the Pentagon's current level of testing and the level that would need to be done before anyone could begin to claim that a missile-defense system might shoot down real enemy missiles in a real nuclear attack. The latest annual report by Thomas Christie, the Pentagon's director of operational testing and evaluation, reveals just how incalculably vast this distance is. (The report was published with no fanfare at the end of last year and has appeared on private Web sites - but not the Pentagon's - in the past two weeks.") The anti-missile missiles that Bush plans to deploy later this year are the simplest elements of this system. Yet, Christie notes, they aren't ready for prime time, either - or, as he puts it, their development has been hindered by several shortcomings. There is currently no deployable rocket to boost them into space."

- - 3/12/04

"Astronomers can't say whether asteroid 2004 FH might encounter Earth in the future as it continues to orbit the Sun…Researchers say significant new spending would be required to purposely find and track asteroids smaller than 0.6 miles (1 kilometer). Asteroid hunters…are not set up to spot all of the smaller objects that inhabit the same general space as Earth. There could be millions. Those that are found involve serendipity."

- - 3/18/04

Again, the Missile Defense program suffers a major humiliation as another $85 million test fails. For months President Bush has had on hold his big plans to announce "deployment" of the Missile Defense shield, trouble is, scientists can't get it to work. Of interest regarding this test failure is the inconsistency with which media informs the public about the loss of taxpayer money. The New York Times reported this on the front page, USA Today had the story in the middle of the paper, and our local city newspaper hid the story in a small mention in the back of the paper.

- New York Times, USA Today 12/16/04

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"Killer Asteroid" documentary: Rusty Sweichter (Apollo 9 astronaut), "The Earth is vulnerable...and now that we're on top of the evolutionary heap, we don't want to go the way of the dinosaurs."

"The U.S. government has allocated an annual budget of $4 million for tracking asteroids that might hit us. But there's hardly a dime being spent on protecting ourselves if we do find one."

Jay Malosh Prof. at University of Arizona at Tuscon, "In terns of the nuclear option, people have been watching movies too long. They get the idea that detonating a nuclear weapon cause the asteroid to just evaporate and the parts scatter to the winds. In fact that doesn't happen. An asteroid a half a mile, or mile in diameter is a mountain, and you're trying to move a mountain with a nuclear weapon."

"The Soviet Union detonated the biggest nuclear weapon ever, a sixty megaton bomb. You would need a bomb with the equivalent of a thousand megatons or more to deflect a large asteroid . But no nukes need apply, because there's an even greater drawback to the nuclear option."

Jay Malosh, "Even if you do manage to break it up into smaller fragments, those fragments are still targeted on the Earth and they're now radioactive."

"Trying to move the asteroid with extreme force will have little or no effect. The asteroid would either absorb the punch or would simply re-form. Sweichter proposes a gentle push over a large surface area. But this mission currently exists only on the drawing board."

Schweickart, "Heaven help us if one has our name on it and hits within the next few years. We're looking at something like fifteen or twenty years to develop this kind of capability."

"The threat of an asteroid impact is real, about a one in twenty-thousand chance of wiping out millions of us."

- National Geographic Channel - 2004

[NOTE: Schweickart's estimate of 15-20 years to "develop this capability" and the narrator's assertion that our chance of being hit is "one in twenty-thousand" are both wildly optimistic claims, or, as Alan Greenspan used to say, "irrational exhuberance." It'll take a century at least for our technology to be able to deflect rocks, and our chance of being hit is 100 percent.]