Technology and Hope

This week I met with three engineers based at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration‘s Goddard Center. I’m always made more hopeful by young professionals who love their work, care about the neighborhood beyond their office gate, and are open to sharing with local children the kind of inspiration that motivated each of them to step onto the research paths that they’re on.

Are We Smarter than the Dinosaurs?

Two dinosaurs lounging. The one on the right: "All I'm saying is _now_ is the time to develop technology to deflect an asteroid."

(c) Frank Cotham, New Yorker | via B612 Foundation

One of these engineers introduced me to the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). The mission is to corral an asteroid, bring it into the Moon’s orbit, and start studying it by 2025. Because of the distances involved, astronauts will need to leave Earth by about 2019.

This week, NASA invited other STEM institutes and members of the public to join in the grand challenge of identifying and monitoring asteroid threats to Earth. The more we know about asteroids near us, the more we can track them; the more we track them, the more we can assess risk and plan for redirection and mitigation.

As the B612 Foundation‘s Ed Lu writes: “Asteroid impacts are the only global scale natural disaster we know how to prevent.” Successful work on the ARM program will move us forward—and when there is an inbound asteroid on an Earth-collision course, we will know what to do with it.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson described the stakes back in March on the Daily Show: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3.

From the Archives

Also check out this news report from 1981: When the network news discovered the internet. For extra points: note the rotary phone and plug-in modem!

“Imagine, if you will, sitting down to your morning coffee, turning on your ‘home computer’ to read the day’s newspaper. Well it’s not as far-fetched as it may seem.”

Now imagine, if you will, how many assumptions you hold today that will soon prove false, and all the things you have no concept of now but will radically change the world you live in in the next 30 years.

Scary? Exciting? I’m excited.

HT: Jeanette Brantley for the B612 Foundation links.

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