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Canada Space Science

First Dedicated Asteroid-Tracking Satellite Will Be Canadian 49

cylonlover writes "In the wake of the meteor blast over Russia and the close-quarter flyby of asteroid 2012 DA14 last week, many people's thoughts have turned to potential dangers from above. It is timely then that the Canadian Space Agency will next week launch NEOSSat (Near-Earth Object Surveillance Satellite), the world's first space telescope for detecting and tracking asteroids, satellites and space debris." The meteor incident in Russia has spurred interested in asteroid defense across the globe; donations are pouring in for asteroid-related projects, government officials are making a show of seeming interested, and researchers are stepping up their efforts. Unfortunately, as a related article at Wired notes, we're still a long, long way from having anything more than early warning systems. Quoting: "A new endeavor coming online in 2015 named the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System Project (ATLAS) will provide an early warning system that could provide one week’s notice for city-destroying 45-meter asteroids and three week’s notice for potentially devastating 140-meter objects. ... A more targeted effort comes from the B612 Foundation, which plans to launch the Sentinel telescope in late 2016. This spacecraft would sit inside the orbit of Venus and constantly be on the lookout for killer asteroids, whichever direction they come from. Sentinel will spot nearly all asteroids 150 meters or larger and identify a significant portion of those down to 30 meters in diameter."
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First Dedicated Asteroid-Tracking Satellite Will Be Canadian

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  • Canadian? (Score:4, Funny)

    by TWX ( 665546 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @09:52AM (#42978749)
    Canadian, eh?
    • They missed the 'a', it'll be a Canadian. On a chair watching the sky wearing a bright orange bomber jacket.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      They're going to need a really big hockey stick.

  • Not Quite (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It is timely then that the Canadian Space Agency will next week launch NEOSSat (Near-Earth Object Surveillance Satellite), ....

    I think it should be that the CSA will have someone else launch NEOSSat.

  • Great to see a reference to one of my favourite author's writings, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry --- though I much preferred his _Wind, Sand and Stars_.


  • by Anonymous Coward

    Humanity survives 100,000 years without being annihilated by meteors, but now a meteor has struck in Russia and we need to panic and have a meteor defense system up in 10 years? Sorry, but the probabilities have not changed. If you want to save humanity, focus on eliminating bio-weapons and nuclear weapons. Those are the threats that could eliminate humanity in 50 years. Meteors--probably not*.

    * And I know that I'm going to be flamed by those who say "what if". The same argument has been used to sink nuclea

    • by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @10:08AM (#42978887) Homepage Journal

      Based on your message, I wonder how they were able to pull this type of project together in 10 days!

      Obviously someone up there has been interested in this problem since well before the Russia incident.

    • by hsmith ( 818216 )
      If we can't stop the meteor, then what is the point? I mean - it is like being told you'll be shot in the face the second before it happens.
      • If we can't stop the meteor, then what is the point? I mean - it is like being told you'll be shot in the face the second before it happens.

        Because all of the money being poured into defense contractors by the government that is being forced to cut defense spending can now be poured into the same companies to protect us from meteors. Since there is no longer a geo-political threat to sustain cold war spending, we now need a new threat.

      • by TWX ( 665546 )
        If you can narrow down a geographical region and a time, you can at least tell people to get away from windows. There were a lot of people hurt in the Russian event because of flying glass. If the meteor is too big then it won't matter a lot, but if it's not huge or if one isn't directly in its path then it may help a few.

        It's similar to nuclear "duck and cover" responses. Obviously, ducking and covering won't help you if you're in the fireball. But, if you're five miles from the fireball, ducking an
    • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @10:17AM (#42978979) Homepage

      We already have a lot of resources going to dealing with nuclear weapons and bioweapons. Meanwhile, after the fall of the USSR, the chance of a full scale nuclear war went down a lot. And there may even be benefits from many countries having nukes- there's the notion of "nuclear peace" []- once a few countries have nukes, they are less likely to go to war with each other. In contrast, we have very little going to deal with asteroids and other existential risk threats from space, so we might as well put some resources into it, especially given that asteroid tracking telescopes will also give us interesting scientific data.

      Your basic point does however have some validity. There's the serious problem of the Great Filter []. That is, something apparently makes advanced civilizations very rare. It is possible that most of the filtration stopping civilizations occurs before they reach our tech level (e.g. need for life to arise, need for complex life to arise, need for intelligent life to arise, need for civilization to arise, etc.) However, there's a definite possibility that much of the Filter is in front of us and not behind us. If that's the case, Filtration likely needs to occur very soon (next few centuries) since once we're spread out a bit in space, destroying or severely setting back our whole civilization will be much tougher. This narrow window suggests that most of the civilization destroying events we need to worry about are ones that will be created by us, and not natural ones, since natural ones are just so rare. So while we're clearly not putting enough resources into investigating and preventing existential risks, it is possible that almost all the resources we put in should focus on the tech-based ones.

      • by Arker ( 91948 )

        "Nuclear peace" or as it was called a few decades back, MAD, works fairly well. It's sort of an extension of the old dictum that a well-armed people are a polite people. The problem is that nuclear weapons are so powerful and indiscriminate in effect that it only needs to fail once to have catastrophic effects planet-wide. This makes it very dangerous.

        However the rest of the world is hardly going to give up on their nukes when the US wont. And the US pays lip-service to disarmament and the NPL but goes no f

    • by sunderland56 ( 621843 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @10:51AM (#42979321)

      Dinosaurs survived 135 million years without being annihilated. Their last words were "Damn, I wish we'd done something".

    • 1. Last time a 'city-killer' struck was 100 years ago, it just happened to be in an empty place.

      2. This isn't a panicked response -- you can't build a satellite in a week, and this has been on the books for years. The Russian meteor is a nice reminder, but this has been a focus of many for decades.

      3. My background is in astrodynamics and spacecraft design. I can do a lot better work on protecting against asteroid impacts than I could focusing on nuclear weapons. The best man from my wedding is a nuclear e

    • True enough, but I don't see this as needfully being either - or. Do you?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Of course! The Canadians are Marxist, Socialist, Fascist, Totalitarian Hippies that actually care about their citizens.

    This project is of use to no known corporate entity, so it is therefore a waste of money. No gun manufacturers will be involved, either.

    • No gun manufacturers will be involved, either.


      • Hey if can be argued that guns would be needed in a fight against a military with supersonic stealth fighters, cruise missiles and ICBMs, is it such a stretch to argue that they could be used for asteroid defense?

  • Gogo Canada! (Score:5, Informative)

    by AikonMGB ( 1013995 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @10:07AM (#42978883) Homepage

    Also on the PSLV-C20 launch are the Canadian military satellite SAPPHIRE [], and the twin spacecraft BRITE-Austria and UniBRITE [], developed in Canada [] for TU Graz and University of Vienna respectively. ISRO put out a pretty good brochure [] describing the launch.

    You can find some good photos of the stacking and launch vehicle integration here [], here [], and here []. You can watch the launch live on Monday morning here [].

    Needless to say, we're all pretty stoked around here ^__^

    • I should clarify my first sentence: the prime contractor for SAPPHIRE is MDA, the customer being the Department of National Defense. It is the BRITEs that were developed for Austria by SFL.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So it will detect "significant portion of those down to 30 meters in diameter." The one that hit Russia was believed to be 15 meters in diameter.

    Sounds useful.

    • The one that hit Russia blew out a few windows, but that's all. The kinetic energy is proportional to mass though, and thus scales with diameter cubed: One just a little bit larger would do a great deal more damage. Double the size to 30 meters, eight times the bang.

      • by tp1024 ( 2409684 )

        You're underestimating the scaling. The destruction caused by a meteor blowing up in the atmosphere also depends on the altitude. A meteor of twice the size will last longer and blow up much closer to the ground. (Especially when it doesn't strike at such a shallow angle.) Half the distance means four times the pressure (at least for a small area near the "explosion"). At about 100m size it won't break up before hitting the ground ... the only good news is that after this, energy does indeed scale with velo

  • . . . should we blame the government? Or blame society? Or should we blame the images on TV? No, blame Canada! Blame Canada! With all their beady little eyes and flapping heads so full of lies. Blame Canada! Blame Canada!
  • All these efforts will kill their business.

  • Because we don't need even more ice falling from the heavens! Even if this is a piece of ice from half-way across the Solar system! /me looking outside and quietly cursing about the weather and the snow and shoveling it again...

"Conversion, fastidious Goddess, loves blood better than brick, and feasts most subtly on the human will." -- Virginia Woolf, "Mrs. Dalloway"