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Congressman Rohrabacher Requests Hearing To Assess Near Earth Objects Threat

Jun 23, 2007

Washington, Jun 23, 2007 -
Congressman Rohrabacher sent a letter to Congressman Mark Udall, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, requesting a hearing to examine the United States’ ability to track Near Earth Objects (NEOs) that potentially pose a significant threat to the planet. A March 2007 report released by NASA restated the goals of the current detection program, known as Spaceguard, and described the possible destruction caused if an NEO were to collide with the earth. “At this time,” writes Rohrabacher, “our ability to discover and track such objects is woefully inadequate.”

“While progress has been made in detecting large numbers of NEOs that will not hit the Earth, we still do not have in place a system that adequately deals with the actual detection of an NEO on a scheduled collision course with the planet,” says Rohrabacher. In 2005, Rohrabacher sponsored the George E. Brown Jr. Near Earth Object Survey Act (HR 1022) which would increase NASA’s program by requiring 90% of NEOs 140 meters and larger to be cataloged within 15 years. During testimony earlier this year, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin admitted there is no funding available to increase resources for NEO detection, despite passage of HR 1022 under the 2005 NASA Authorization Act. In addition, the Arecibo Radio Telescope, a key resource in NEO detection, is scheduled to be shut down by 2011.

“We need to have a fully funded program that concentrates on identifying threats from space and a response system in place to address that threat once it is identified,” says Rohrabacher. Mr. Rohrabacher is a member of the Science and Technology Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics and the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight.