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THE COMET/ASTEROID IMPACT HAZARD: A SYSTEMS APPROACH Clark R. Chapman and Daniel D. Durda Office of Space Studies Southwest Research Institute Boulder CO 80302 and Robert E. Gold Space Engineering and Technology Branch Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory Laurel MD 20723 24 February 2001
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The Comet/Asteroid Impact Hazard: Chapman, Durda, and Gold A Systems Approach February 2001 SwRI White Paper: 1 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The threat of impact on Earth of an asteroid or comet, while of very low probability, has the potential to create public panic and – should an impact happen – be sufficiently destructive (perhaps on a global scale) that an integrated approach to the science, technology, and public policy aspects of the impact hazard is warranted. This report outlines the breadth of the issues that need to be addressed, in an integrated way, in order for society to deal with the impact hazard responsibly. At the present time, the hazard is often treated – if treated at all – in a haphazard and unbalanced way. Most analysis so far has emphasized telescopic searches for large (>1 km diameter) near-Earth asteroids and space-operations approaches to deflecting any such body that threatens to impact. Comparatively little attention has been given to other essential elements of addressing and mitigating this hazard. For example, no formal linkages exist between the astronomers who would announce discovery of a threatening asteroid and the several national (civilian or military) agencies that might undertake deflection. Beyond that, comparatively little attention has been devoted to finding or dealing with other potential impactors, including asteroids smaller than 1 km or long-period comets. And essentially no analysis has been done of how to mitigate other repercussions from predictions of impacts (civil panic), how to plan for other kinds of mitigation besides deflection (e.g. evacuation of ground zero, storing up food in the case of a worldwide breakdown of agriculture, etc.), or how to coordinate responses to impact predictions among agencies within a single nation or among nations. We outline the nature of the impact hazard and the existing ways that a predicted impact would be handled at the present time. We describe potential solutions to existing gaps in the required approaches and structures (both technical and governmental) for dealing with impacts, including the kinds of communications links that need to be established and responsibilities assigned. We recommend crafting, adoption, and implementation of improved procedures for informing the broader society about the impact hazard, notifying the public and relevant officials/agencies about an impact prediction, and putting in place (in advance of such predictions) procedures for coordination among relevant agencies and countries. We recommend that pro-active steps be taken, perhaps through a high-visibility international conference and other types of
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This note was uploaded on 03/27/2010 for the course AST 101 taught by Professor White during the Spring '10 term at American International.

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