FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
National Space Society and B612 Foundation Hail NASA's Deep Impact Mission
Mission portends key advances in science and technology of planetary protection
Washington, DC, January 12, 2005 - The National Space Society and the B612 Foundation hailed today's launch of the Deep Impact mission as a critical step forward for both the exploration of space and the protection of planet Earth.
"The science of Deep Impact will teach us vital lessons about the internal structure of comets and the composition of the early solar system," said George Whitesides, Executive Director of NSS. "Equally important will be the mission's technological advances."
"If successful, Deep Impact will be the first mission to physically intercept a comet's nucleus, and as such will demonstrate a critical milestone in humanity's capacity to protect our planet from Near Earth Objects (NEO's)."
Comets and asteroids compose the two categories of NEO's with the potential to devastate life on Earth. The high-speed interception mission of the Deep Impact probe must be followed by later missions to mitigate the danger of such objects, building on continued efforts to find and map their locations.
The B612 Foundation was established to advocate the demonstration of the next major step in planetary protection: to significantly alter the orbit of an asteroid in a controlled manner. This goal is endorsed by NSS, and will be a key focus during the upcoming annual conference of the society in Washington DC in May.
NASA's Vision for Space Exploration and its ongoing NEO research programs can build the systems and technologies needed for asteroid interception and mitigation. Programs like Project Prometheus, Deep Impact and human exploration technologies will form the foundation for the most important space mission possible: saving planet Earth.
Rusty Schweickart, Apollo 9 astronaut and Chairman of the B612 Foundation, concluded:
"Using the advanced technologies embedded in NASA's Prometheus program we can demonstrate within the next several years that we can protect the planet from asteroid impacts. This is a critically important public confidence builder and B612 Foundation urges NASA to adopt asteroid deflection demonstration as an early Prometheus mission."
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