Looking Back, Looking Forward. The Next 15 Years! by Ed Lu
October 13, 2017
The post is written by B612 Co-founder and Asteroid Institute Executive Director, Ed Lu. Ed is a NASA Astronaut and an explorer whose quest is to map the unknown—whether by surveying the oceans at Liquid Robotics, leading Google Advanced Projects Team to map our neighborhoods, or his current work unveiling the secrets of the inner solar system.
October 7 marked 15 years since B612 was formed to protect the Earth from asteroid impacts. Each day this week, five founding board members will each reflect on B612’s 15 years.
We’ve come a long way in the last 15 years since the formation of B612. Back then there was a lot of conversation about how we get politicians and the general public to take the issue of asteroids seriously. But now the idea of preventing asteroid impacts is somewhat mainstream, at least if you watch popular movies and TV. I think a lot of it had to do with the Chelyabinsk asteroid impact in 2013 and the subsequent media coverage, as well as discussion amongst the space agencies and within the halls of government.
But just as important, we’ve made enormous progress in understanding the subtleties and nuances of deflecting asteroids from hitting Earth, and correspondingly great progress in finding and tracking asteroids. Not only have astronomers cataloged nearly all very large near-Earth asteroids (larger than 1 km in size), but we are making progress at finding and tracking smaller asteroids.
In a larger context, I think our quest to protect planet Earth from large asteroid impacts is part of a bigger movement, one in which humanity spreads out into the solar system and begins acting as a multi-planet species. In that sense, we can understand our quest to catalog and track asteroids as helping build a dynamic three-dimensional precision map of the inner solar system. Just as the first step in opening up new frontiers has historically been making a detailed map, the key to our future protection of Earth, the economic development of space resources, and scientific discoveries will be to create this detailed map.
I can hardly wait to see what we can do in the next 15 years!
Executive Director, Asteroid Institute