Pew Poll Shows Public Believes Asteroid Monitoring Should Be a Top Priority

Daniel de Zeeuw

June 12, 2018

A new survey shows Americans believe asteroid monitoring to be a national priority. And we believe humanity needs a map of asteroids in our solar system.

Pew Research Center’s recently published survey asked “Should monitoring asteroids/objects that could hit the Earth be a top priority?” The answer was “yes.” This report also found that the majority of the respondents felt that investment in the International Space Station was a good investment for the United States.

“Strong public support that the U.S. should continue to be at the vanguard of space exploration is widely shared across gender, educational and political groups. Each generational group, for example, expresses nearly equal levels of strong support for continued U.S. space leadership – from Baby Boomer and older generations (71%) who lived through the “Right Stuff” era that pioneered space exploration to Millennials (70%) who grew up during the space shuttle program.”

The Pew report found that 62% of Americans rated monitoring asteroids and other objects that could potentially collide with the Earth as the second most important activity that NASA should be working on. We couldn’t agree more. For over a decade, B612 has been at the forefront of speaking publicly of our need to protect our planet from asteroid impacts.

As many supporters of B612 and the Asteroid Institute know, we have been working for the last 16 years to educate and advocate for deflection demonstration mission investments, increased asteroid discovery rates and most recently for a shared map of the asteroids in our inner solar system, especially those that come near Earth. These asteroids are strategically, scientifically, and economically important.

Additionally, B612 led the development and growth of Asteroid Day, a global day of education and awareness. Asteroid Day launched four years ago with the 100X Asteroid Declaration, which called for the world to 1) employ available technology to detect and track Near-Earth Asteroids that threaten human populations via governments and private and philanthropic organisations and 2) a rapid hundred-fold acceleration of the discovery and tracking of Near-Earth Asteroids to 100,000 per year within the next ten years. We believe our efforts over the last decade have had a major part in the new public perception reported by Pew.

A recent article by asked why asteroid detection is so underfunded after the latest impact. NASA has been the primary funder of asteroid detection activities worldwide ($50 million annually), and that investment has paid off with increasing discovery capability, exemplified by the asteroid that impacted this last weekend over Botswana. However the entire asteroid community, including NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and other asteroid related science & technology groups (like B612), need continued funding if we are someday going to truly protect our planet. While there is progress, more investment is needed in new technologies and telescopes to discover and catalog the majority of near-Earth asteroids.

Whoever leads the development of a map of solar system asteroids will not only help protect Earth from asteroids but will help space development in general. Dr. Ed Lu and I argued in this Financial Times piece, that more investment is needed in new technologies and telescopes to discover and catalog the great majority of near-Earth asteroids. The benefits of a map are widely distributed, with some being societal goods such as planetary defense from asteroid impacts, and others accruing to private enterprises committed to making investments in a future space-based economy. It is time for space agencies, private corporations, academics, and nonprofits to work together on an asteroid mapping project with the goal of filling in the details on the millions of unknown asteroids in our inner solar system.

B612 is confident that humanity is up for the challenge of mapping our solar system. As this Newsweek headline stated four years ago, when we launched Asteroid Day, someone will have to pay.

Danica Remy
B612 Foundation, home of the Asteroid Institute

Daniel de Zeeuw