CCNet 71/2002 - 21 June 2002

"Looking statistically at the asteroid population, maybe 50 times a
year a 100-meter-class asteroid passes within a lunar distance of Earth.
But only a handful of such asteroids that have penetrated the Moon's
orbit have been spotted by asteroid search programs."
--Grant Stokes, Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research Project

"In all likelihood, a small Tunguska-size object will occur over
uninhabited areas of the earth. In that respect, the damage will be
limited, but the psychological effects will be dramatic and global, because
it would convey the message that we are living in an extremely dangerous
universe -which is at the same time true and not true... We need to be
psychologically prepared."  
--Benny Peiser, MSNBC, 20 June 2002

    The New York Times, 21 June 2002

    MSNBC, 20 June 2002

    BBC News Online, 20 June 2002

    The Daily Telegraph, 21 June 2002 

    Reuters, 20 June 2002


    Patrick Michel <>

(8) 2002MN VS 2002LY45
    Duncan Steel <>

    Michael Martin-Smith  <>


>From The New York Times, 21 June 2002


LONDON (AP) -- An asteroid the size of a football field hurtled past the
Earth a week ago, missing what could have been a catastrophic collision by a
mere 75,000 miles -- less than a third of the distance to the moon.

The miss was one of the nearest ever recorded for an object of that size,
scientists said Thursday. "It was a close shave," said Brian Marsden of the
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass.

The asteroid would have caused "considerable loss of life" if it had struck
Earth in a populated area, said Grant Stokes, the principal investigator for
the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research Project, whose New Mexico
observatory spotted the object last week.

"The energy release would be of the magnitude of a large nuclear weapon,"
Stokes said.

The asteroid was not detected until three days after it sped past Earth on
June 14. When such asteroids are detected, they are usually spotted far from
Earth, when they are approaching or on their way out.

The asteroid, provisionally named 2002 MN, was traveling at more than 23,000
mph when it was spotted, Stokes said in a phone interview from Lexington,
Mass., where he is associate head of the aerospace division of MIT Lincoln

Light in weight but with a diameter of between 50 and 120 yards, 2002 MN was
big enough to have caused the kind of devastation wreaked in Siberia in
1908, when an asteroid that exploded above Tunguska flattened nearly 800
square miles of forest.

That asteroid's air blast was believed to have done the damage, since no
crater was found.

The size of asteroids is estimated by measuring their brightness, without
knowing their composition. In general, damage on the ground depends on what
an asteroid is made of, varying from solid metal to a loosely bound

"Looking statistically at the asteroid population, maybe 50 times a year a
100-meter-class asteroid passes within a lunar distance of Earth," Stokes
said. "But only a handful of such asteroids that have penetrated the Moon's
orbit have been spotted by asteroid search programs."

Benny Peiser, an expert on near earth objects at Liverpool John Moores
University in England, said that most asteroids do not come so close, but
noted the latest "reminder" comes as Britain tests telescopes on the Spanish
island of La Palma to search for the objects.

"Such near misses do highlight the importance of detecting these objects,"
he said.

Currently, there is no program dedicated to searching for objects of 2002
MN's size. NASA concentrates its efforts on bodies bigger than .62 miles
across, which would cause worse devastation.

"NASA has a goal of discovering and obtaining good orbits for all the near
earth objects with diameters larger than 1 kilometer," said Thomas Morgan, a
scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington. "Asteroids of this size could
potentially destroy civilization as we know it."

Such asteroids could theoretically hit Earth every million years, or at
longer intervals.

Asteroids the size of 2002 MN are estimated to hit the Earth every 100 to
several hundred years, causing local damage but no disaster to civilization
or the planet's ecosystem, Stokes said.

"It's something the public should know about, but shouldn't get nervous
about," he said. "Civilization has to get used to them on some level."

Copyright 2002, The New York Times


>From MSNBC, 20 June 2002

Rock passes within 75,000 miles, detected only afterward
By Alan Boyle
June 20 -  An asteroid roughly as wide as a football field gave Earth its
closest call in eight years last week, astronomers say. They say asteroid
2002 MN passed within 75,000 miles of Earth - closer than the moon - last
Friday, but it was not detected until three days afterward. At an estimated
50 to 100 yards across, the asteroid wasn't big enough to cause an
"Armageddon"-style catastrophe, but in a worst-case scenario, it could have
laid waste to a city.   
THE CLOSE SHAVE on June 14 was similar to an asteroid encounter reported in
March - but this time the space rock came much closer. In fact, NASA says
this was the closest known approach of such an object since 1994, when a
much smaller asteroid came within 65,000 miles (105,000 kilometers).

As was the case for the March encounter, 2002 MN came from Earth's sunward
side, where daylight obscures visual observations of the sky. It was only
after the object made the switch to the night sky that astronomers with the
LINEAR asteroid-tracking effort in New Mexico could gather enough data to
compute its orbit.
"Things of this size come by every few weeks," Don Yeomans, who heads NASA's
Near-Earth Object Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told
"It's just a matter of finding them."

Like the asteroid in March, 2002 MN isn't nearly as large as the rock
thought to have contributed to the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years
ago. That's a good thing, but because such objects are relatively dim,
they're virtually impossible to detect unless they pass close to Earth. And
although they're small, they can still pack a nuclear-level punch.  
For example, 2002 MN is roughly the size of the object that scientists think
blew up over Siberia's Tunguska forest in 1908, laying waste to hundreds of
square miles. A similar-size asteroid, made of iron, blasted out the
4,000-foot-wide (1,200-meter-wide) Meteor Crater in Arizona 50,000 years

If something as big as 2002 MN were to come down over New York, it would
have an effect far more devastating than the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Asteroid experts are quick to point out that the chances of such an
incredibly unlucky event happening in the worst possible place are
vanishingly small.

"In all likelihood, a small Tunguska-size object will occur over uninhabited
areas of the earth," said Benny Peiser, an anthropologist at Liverpool John
Moores University who is an expert on the social impact of cosmic
collisions. "In that respect, the damage will be limited, but the
psychological effects will be dramatic and global, because it would convey
the message that we are living in an extremely dangerous universe -which is
at the same time true and not true."

The two close calls reported within just four months demonstrate how quickly
astronomers are adding to their capability to detect asteroids, he told

"It's just because we are enhancing our detection capability all the time
that we now realize what is going on in our immediate environment," Peiser
said. "If we were actually observing all the objects that are shaving us
every day, I think people would be quite concerned."

Researchers estimate that a Tunguska-level blow-up should happen every 100
to 200 years. "My guess is that (the next one) will happen within our
lifetimes," Peiser said, "and hopefully it will be a small object. We need
to be psychologically prepared."  

On that score, Peiser believes there just might be a benefit to the
recurring asteroid alerts that began four years ago - about the time that
the Hollywood movies "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon" came out. Scientists as
well as the general public are becoming more aware of the potential threat,
and the limitations of today's monitoring systems.  

In the years ahead, astronomers hope to beef up their asteroid-monitoring
efforts, particularly in the Southern Hemisphere, and there's also a series
of space missions scheduled to study the nature of asteroids and comets. A
comet flyby mission known as Contour is due for launch next month, and Japan
is to send out its MUSES-C spacecraft later this year to sample an asteroid.

Yeomans said the knowledge gained by such missions could be used to figure
out what to do if a large near-Earth object were to pose a collision threat.
But Peiser said the kind of scenario posed by 2002 MN probably wouldn't give
us enough time to send out an "Armageddon"-style space crew or even a
nuclear interceptor.

"The objects will be spotted only days before they hit," he said, "if they
are spotted at all."
Copyright 2002, MSNBC

* 64644 responses
The threat is being exaggerated.
I'm adding it to my list of worries.
Something needs to be done! Now!
None of the above.


>From the BBC News Online, 20 June 2002
By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor 
Astronomers have revealed that on 14 June, an asteroid the size of a
football pitch made one of the closest ever recorded approaches to the

It is only the sixth time an asteroid has been seen to penetrate the Moon's
orbit, and this is by far the biggest rock to do so.

What has worried some astronomers, though, is that the space object was only
detected on 17 June, several days after its flyby.

It was found by astronomers working on the Lincoln Laboratory Near Earth
Asteroid Research (Linear) search programme in New Mexico.

Catalogued as 2002MN, the asteroid was travelling at over 10 kilometres a
second (23,000 miles per hour) when it passed Earth at a distance of around
120,000 km (75,000 miles).

The last time such an object is recorded to have come this close was in
December 1994.

'Wake up call'

The space rock has a diameter of between 50-120 metres (160 - 320 feet).
This is actually quite small when compared with many other asteroids and
incapable of causing damage on a global scale.

Nonetheless, an impact from such a body would still be dangerous.

If 2002MN had hit the Earth, it would have caused local devastation similar
to that which occurred in Tunguska, Siberia, in 1908, when 2,000 square
kilometres of forest were flattened.

Dr Benny Peiser, of Liverpool John Moores University, UK, told BBC News
Online: "Our ever increasing observational capacity is now detecting these
close shaves from small objects.

"The probability is actually quite high that a Tunguska-sized object will
hit us in our lifetimes."

'Bolt from the blue'

A major issue of concern centres on how late this object was picked up.

Dr John Davies, of the Royal Observatory Edinburgh, has calculated the orbit
of the asteroid from the Linear data.

He concludes that the asteroid came out of the Sun and was impossible for
Linear to see until one hour after its flyby of the Earth on the 14th.

Dr Davies said: "...if an asteroid were to approach close to an imaginary
line joining the Earth and the Sun it would never be visible in a night-time
sky and would be quite impossible to discover with normal telescopes. Its
arrival would come, literally, as a bolt from the blue."

Space-based telescopes, such as Hubble and the future European Gaia
spacecraft, are the only means of searching for asteroids in the daytime

Copyright 2002, BBC


>From The Daily Telegraph, 21 June 2002 

By Robert Uhlig

An asteroid the size of a football pitch and large enough to raze a major
city missed the Earth by just 75,000 miles last Friday, a distance
considered by astronomers to be a "close shave".

In one of the closest known passes of an asteroid to Earth, the space rock
passed well within the orbit of the Moon at a speed of more than 23,000 mph,
but it was not detected until Monday.

Had the asteroid, called 2002MN, struck a built-up area the damage and loss
of life would have been similar to that caused by a large nuclear bomb.

Although small compared to some asteroids, 2002MN passed Earth by a hair's
breadth in galactic terms. It was big enough to have caused local
devastation similar to that caused by the asteroid which destroyed 2,000
kilometres of forest in Tungska, Siberia, in 1908.

Kevin Yates of the Near Earth Object Information Centre, part of the
National Space Centre, said that had 2002MN collided with Earth, "the most
likely thing is that it would have detonated in the atmosphere, creating a
blast wave".

He said: "You're talking in the region of 10 megatons - quite a lot of
energy to be released in any one place."

Dr Benny Peiser, from Liverpool John Moores University, an expert on Near
Earth Objects, said: "The vast majority of NEOs discovered do not come this
close. Such near misses highlight the importance of detecting these

The asteroid, which was between 150ft and 360ft across, was detected by
American astronomers from the Lincoln Laboratory Near Earth Asteroid
Research Project in New Mexico.

It was only the sixth asteroid known to have penetrated the Moon's orbit,
and by far the biggest. Brian Marsden, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center
for Astrophysics said: "It was a close shave."

There is no programme searching for NEOs approaching the southern hemisphere
and Nasa, the American space agency, only looks for bodies bigger than a

Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2002.


>From Reuters, 20 June 2002

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When comets born at the edge of our solar system
disappear from view, they don't just lose their tails and go dormant; 99
percent of them go "poof" and crumble to bits, U.S. researchers reported on

"These objects are simply not where we expect them to be," Harold Levison of
the Southwest Research Institute said in a statement. "The only explanation
that I can think of is that they go 'poof."'

The mystery of the missing comets has been debated for decades.

Some astronomers theorized that most of those that issued from a cloud of
comets, known as the Oort cloud, at the edge of the solar system eventually
stopped producing their highly visible tails and went dormant, making them
harder to detect.

But Levison and his colleagues, writing in the journal Science, said their
studies showed the vast majority of these comets broke apart after a few
passes through the inner solar system.

Levison, based in Boulder, Colorado, and his team compared computer models
with observations of comets to figure out where the missing ones went.

The team created thousands of fictitious new comets, tracked the comets as
they entered the solar system from the Oort cloud, and calculated their
evolution based on the gravitational influences of the sun, planets, and
Milky Way.

By following comet trajectories until they were ejected from the solar
system, hit a planet or struck the sun, team members estimated the number of
dormant comets should have been 100 times larger than the number actually
seen. From this, they deduced that 99 percent of comets simply vanished.

They noted that Oort cloud comets disintegrate far more often than those
originating in the Kuiper Belt, a comet source just beyond Neptune.

Both kinds of comets are made of the same mixture of ice and rock, but
differences in the chemical or physical characteristics of their formation
areas might account for the variation in behavior, the researchers said.

Copyright 2002, Reuters


>From, 20 June 2002

By Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer
Astronomers know where most newly discovered comets come from, a reservoir
on the outskirts of our solar system called the Oort Cloud, which extends
nearly halfway to the next star.

Now and then, one of these distant comets is booted into the inner solar
system and loops around the Sun on its first close pass. Most of these
first-time comets are then kicked clear out beyond the Oort Cloud, never to
return. A smaller number are swallowed by the Sun. The remainder are set on
a new course that will bring them back around the Sun in anywhere from 20
years to a million years, depending on their new orbits.

Yet in the five decades that scientists have known all this, they have
puzzled over why they don't see hundreds of times more returning comets than
they do. The answer may be that the objects simply disintegrate, according
to a new study.

Dutch astronomer Jan Oort, for whom the reservoir of frozen dirtballs is
named, figured out that of those comets that survive their first trip and
should therefore be locked into recurring passes through the inner solar
system, far too few ever seem to come back. The leading idea to explain this
problem suggests that the comets essentially turn off, possibly having
depleting the volatile gases that make their glowing heads and tails. They
become, in effect, asteroids.

Scientists at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, plugged
all these factors into a new computer model and found that there simply
aren't enough asteroids being discovered to account for the prevailing
suggestion, however.

"This implies is that what's happening to these things is that they
disintegrate," said Harold Levison, who led the study. "Ninety-nine percent
of them disintegrate." Astronomers saw an example of this last year when a
comet called LINEAR came apart in dramatic fashion.

The new study further found, however, that comets originating in a nearer
reservoir known as the Kuiper Belt do not come apart as frequently.

In a telephone interview, Levison said this is the first evidence suggesting
that the two populations of comets may be composed differently.

"Here's a population of comets that just go 'poof' and disappear," he said.
"The other doesn't"

Figuring out why could help researchers better understand the dynamics of
the solar system and how planets came to be, since comets are thought to be
pristine records of the formation era. The study will be published in the
June 21 issue of the journal Science.

Mark Bailey of the Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland writes in an
accompanying analysis in Science that if the interpretation by Levison and
his colleagues is correct, it would indeed be the first hard evidence for
physical differences between the two comet populations, possibly due to
different origins or evolutionary processes. The case is not firm, though.

"At present, comets remain a puzzle," Bailey said.
Copyright 2002,


>From Patrick Michel <>

Dear Benny,

Could you please send via CCNET the annoucement of the next Catastrophic
Disruption meeting (see below). Please, already note that the Hotel requires
for the end of this June 2002 that we make a firm commitment that the
workshop will take place and needs a good estimate of the number of
single/double room (limited to 50, and we received about 20 answers so far).
Therefore, interested people who have not yet responded should fill the form
below and send it back to as soon as possible. This is
important in order to secure the meeting
arrangement. Room reservations, specific plans for talks, and other more
specific engagements will only be asked later. The important information we
need at this point is a good estimate of the number of participants.

Here is the announcement with details. Thank you in advance if you send it
via CCNET.
Sincerely yours,

Patrick MICHEL


We received about 30 replies in response to our first mailing regarding
holding CD-VI with most of them expressing interest in attending the
workshop.  We have decided to proceed with the
workshop, so note it on your calenders and feel free to forward this email
to any colleagues who may be interested and who may have not received the
email announcement:

  MEETING: Sixth Workshop on Catastophic Disruption in the Solar System.
  PLACE:  Cannes, France
  DATES:  June 9-11, 2003.
  DEDICATION:  Dr. Paolo Farinella

SCIENTIFIC ORGANIZING COMMITTEE:  Dan Durda (Chair), Erik Asphaug, Kevin
Housen, Patrick Michel, and Akiko Nakamura.

Patrick Michel will take care of local arrangements and gourmet feasting and
will be the conference administrator.

The meeting room in Cannes can easily accommodate the 50 or so scientists
expected for this workshop (see information on the meeting room and Hotel
below). The Hotel requires for the end of this June 2002 that we make a firm
commitment that the workshop will take place and needs a
good estimate of the number of single/double rooms. Therefore, interested
people should fill the form below and send it back to as
soon as possible.  

The format of the meeting, in keeping with the workshop spirit, will allow
ample time for discussion.  The main themes of the workshop are:
*  Scientific Issues of Catastrophic Disruption.
*  Astronomical and Meteoritical Observations.
*  Laboratory Experiments.
      *  From the Lab to Nature:  Scaling algorithms and hydrocode results.

We expect that the registration fee will be around $75 per attendee which
will include a banquet and probably a field trip.  Additional information on
travel to Cannes plus places to stay is attached below.

Also, we are hopeful of having a small amount of travel money available to
support young scientists who have no other travel funds and scientists who
could not attend the conference without financial support. As soon as we
have confirmation of the travel funds, we will announce their availability.

Finally, we plan to have Proceedings of this workshop published in one of
the main Journals on Planetary Sciences.

We will let you know other details in the next annoucements. Thank you in
advance for sending back as soon as possible the form placed after the
information on the meeting location below.

Dan Durda          Patrick Michel Donald R. Davis


Meeting Logistics:

In the heart of the legendary French Riviera lies the town of Cannes with
its unequalled bay, traditions, and surrounded by small typical villages.
The Croisette Beach Hotel in which the meeting will take place is located
only a short step from the beaches of La Croisette,
and a few minutes by walk from the old town with its typical architecture,
restaurants and local people. 

The Hotel itself has 50 rooms blocked for us, all with the modern confort of
a four-star Hotel (maximum number of stars in France): soundproofed with
air-conditionning, colour cable TV and filter power outlet for computer

For further information, visit the Croisette Beach home page:

Transportation:  Cannes is located about  30 kilometers from Nice
International Airport.  A direct bus makes the connection Nice-Cannes every
30 minutes from the airport for 10 Euros/person and the Hotel is located
close to the Bus Stop. You can also rent a car if you wish and
the Hotel as a private parking. Further details will be sent in next

A welcoming reception cocktail/buffet will be organised in the evening
preceeding the first day of the workshop, certainly on the private beach of
the Hotel.

Lodging:  We strongly recommend staying in the Hotel itself, so all
attendees will be co-located.  There are also other Hotels but at this
period, although the summer crowd arrives in July, it remains better to
check availabilities as soon as possible. If you stay in the Hotel and use
the bus to and from the airport, a car is unnecessary. Cannes is a rather
small town and the different attractive places are all accessible by walk.
After negociating with the management of the Hotel, the accomodations and
prices in the Hotel have been defined as follows.

The prices given below correspond to seminar rates, which mean that they
include (per day and per person):

- the Hotel room (single or double)
- a breakfast buffet
- a Lunch (drinks included) in the Hotel restaurant on its private beach.
- the renting of the conference room for 70 persons with two coffee breaks
(with croissants, cakes, tea, coffee, mineral water, fruit juices) and
  basic equipments: screen, retro-projector, paper-board, seminar bags
  and mineral waters on each table. A videoprojector can be rented,
  but I can certainly negociate to use the one of Nice Observatory! 

Now the prices ...:

113 Euros/person/day in double rooms (with twin beds)
173 Euros/person/day in a single room

Preferential rates will be offered to participants willing to arrive the
week-end before the meeting (let us know as soon as possible), and for
accompanying persons willing to use the private beach accomodations.

50 rooms are currently blocked for us at the Hotel until the end of June
2002 when we will have to confirm that the workshop will take place. So we
need rather quickly to have a good estimate of the number of participants
who definitely wish to come. Participants will then have to contact
directly the Hotel for booking their room for the appropriate dates.
Reservations (no charges) must be made before the end of March 2003. Room
availabilities are not guaranteed after this date, and the Hotel will charge
a certain percentage of the room price in case of cancellation between April
2003 and the beginning of the workshop. Note that this part is still under
negociations (reservation deadline, cancellation policy etc ..) and more
precise information will be given in the next annoucement (by July 2002).  

For participants who want to stay in another Hotel or in case of a number of
participants greater than the Hotel rooms can receive, we'll try to obtain
some arrangements with nearby Hotels but nothing can be ensured yet about
this. However in this case, 55 Euros per participant and per day will be
required  for the Lunch, the conference room accomodation, and coffee

Since the Lunch is already included in the prices, only the diner will be in
charge of participants. Several restaurants are located close to the Hotel
on the Croisette, but participants may prefer a 10 minute walk to have diner
in typical restaurants in the heart of the old town or on the harbor, where
there are many choices with many prices from low to high .... Note that a
banquet will be planned during an evening in one of the good restaurants of
the town or in the area.

CDVI WORKSHOP, June 9-11 2003, France

1- Last Name:

2- First Name:

3- Address:

4- Email:

5- Do you plan to attend? (will attend, may attend, will not attend)

6- Do you plan to stay in a Double Room/Single Room? 

7- If Double Room, do you plan to share it with an accompanying person
or with another participant?

8- What is the tentative title/topic of your presentation?

9- Would you prefer an oral or poster presentation?

10- Thinking in terms of progress in the field since CDV (July 1998), what
topics might you like to see discussed during open discussion periods?

11- Anything else?

Thank you for sending this form to
 Patrick Michel
 Observatoire de la Cote d'Azur
 UMR 6529 Cassini / CNRS            
 B.P. 4229                           Tel: +33-4-92003055
 06304 Nice cedex 4, France          Fax: +33-4-92003121


(8) 2002MN VS 2002LY45

>From Duncan Steel <>

Dear Benny,

There is a slight misunderstanding in the press release from the (UK) Near
Earth Object Information Centre concerning the small asteroid 2002MN.

It is stated that the asteroid "was travelling at over 10 km/s (23,000 miles
per hour) when it passed Earth." Well, that's true: the velocity of the
asteroid in space (its heliocentric velocity) was about 35 km/sec.

The "over 10" km/sec cited is actually the orbital intersection speed (i.e.
the relative velocity of the Earth and the asteroid at the point where their
orbits meet). The value is actually about 10.4 km/sec.

That, however, is not the speed with which the asteroid would have entered
the atmosphere/hit the ground if it had been on a collision course with
Earth. To get from the 10.4 km/sec to the impact speed one must add it in
quadrature with the Earth's escape velocity of just below 11.2 km/sec.
Thus if 2002 MN had, in fact, been on a collision course it would have
arrived at a speed of just below 15.3 km/sec.

Finally, the media buzz about 2002 MN seems remarkable in view of the fact
that the risk list currently contains an asteroid (2002 LY45) which is
around a mile across and has a very high potential impact speed (over  34
km/sec), putting it into the "global catastrophe" bin should it hit. At my
time of writing it still has 34 potential impacts within a century listed
(down from the 800-plus a few days ago), of which eight within the next 40
years have probabilities of order one-in-a-million and are ranked as Torino
Scale 1.

We cannot hope, in this era, to deal with asteroids like 2002 MN; it is
objects like 2002 LY45 which are the more dangerous, and also the ones we
can tackle.


Duncan Steel


>From  Michael Martin-Smith  <>

Dear Benny,
This week's CCNet notes the growing "gold rush" in exoplanet discovery, and
Malcolm Miller's prediction (I sincerely hope, correct) that Humanity will
surely find a way to visit them provided that a killer impact does not get
us first!
To this we must also add Prof. Michael Rampino's data on supervolcanic
eruptions which he states as equivalent to a 1 km asteroid impact and which
occur every 50,000 years or so, i.e. with twice the frequency.
From this it is clear that we can and indeed should build up an
extraterrestrial civilization well in advance of such calamities - the more
so since supervolcanism is, as Prof. Rampino says, probably even harder to
predict or mitigate than a major asteroid impact.
The techniques of cheap reusable spaceflight, in situ use of resources ( eg
the Moon/NEOs) for space industry and construction, and longterm closed loop
ecosystems for Island colonies,( see will give us the means to
avoid calamity by a priori dispersal - or cosmic Diaspora if you want a more
resonant term.
Since we do not know how long we have to wait for either form of
catastrophe, and since we also are likely to take some generations to
achieve a meaningful Diaspora into Space, the only possible alternatives for
a thinking species are
1/ Be fatalistic and live only for today,( Leave it to Allah, if you prefer!)
or 2/ Beef up our space programmes in a multi-generational but focussed
campaign to achieve a true cosmic civilization
I submit that if our civilization is to have any ultimate meaning it must
choose option 2, as expeditiously as practicable. If well planned and
executed, such a path will yield much new knowledge, technology, industry
and employment en route. In short we have nothing to lose, and a Galaxy to

"The Lord helps those who help Themselves!" (Rabbi Hillel, c 1st century AD)
Those of us who follow or work in the relevant sciences should begin to
acquire a united voice and clearly advocate human space exploration,
development, and colonization as an active goal for all Humankind.
Dr Michael Martin-Smith

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