Defending Earth from Space

Defending Earth from Space

Kim Peart

April 2013

Over the life of the Earth, every square inch of our planet has been struck by objects from space, whether asteroids or comets.

For evidence of this we need only look to the Moon, to see that the lunar surface is entirely covered by impact craters.

We do not see that many craters on Earth, because our planet is geologically active and is ever renewing its surface.

Also, not all incoming objects reach the surface of the Earth, but can explode in the atmosphere, as happened above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk recently.

That meteor was only 15 metres wide, but if it had exploded closer to the ground, the city could have been flattened with the loss of many lives.

A larger asteroid that exploded above Siberia in 1908 flattened 80 million trees over an area of 2,150 square kilometres.

One of the larger asteroids to strike the Earth hit Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula around 65 million years ago, carving out a crater 180 kilometres in diameter and is believed by many to have caused the swift exit of the dinosaurs.

Considering the explosive power of even a small asteroid exploding in the air, we are currently ill-prepared to defend the Earth from such attacks from space.

Should we just hope it isn't us next time, or can we raise the defenses and invest in a cosmic survival insurance policy?

To defend the Earth from asteroids or comets, we would firstly need to establish a robust industrial presence in space.

The first step toward this is to build solar power stations beyond Earth, to gain direct access to the virtually unlimited energy well of our star.

People often fail to appreciate the power of the Sun, which has so much fuel to burn, it will blaze brightly for the next 5 billion years and expand to the orbit of the Earth as a red giant star.

We were in a position to start building solar power stations in space in the 1970s, but the love of oil and the money it generated has left us trapped on Earth, as well as creating the carbon crisis.

If we had begun the transition from carbon to stellar energy back then, we would have kept a safe Earth, by not burning all that fossil fuel, as well as develop a defense system against asteroids and comets in space.

In my recent Tasmanian Times article, 'A Deeper Level of Denial', I explore how we managed to lose a safe Earth, even though we knew that the carbon problem existed, acknowledged in a significant White House scientist's report of 1965 and had the means to prevent it from getting worse, while still maintaining growth. [1]

With an industrial presence in space, we could have started building Earth-gravity orbital space settlements, which would serve the role of arks in space should a monster rock arrive that is too large to deal with.

Carl Sagan once suggested, "Since, in the long run, every planetary society will be endangered by impacts from space, every surviving civilization is obliged to become space faring - not because of exploratory or romantic zeal, but for the most practical reason imaginable: staying alive." [2]

Will we heed the words of Carl Sagan and invest in "staying alive"?

If our cosmic survival is of interest, along with assuring a future for our children, we aught be deeply moved to act.

The 1970s space defense option was entirely affordable, when we consider how 7 million tons of bombs were dumped on Vietnam.

So much money has been and is directed into the arts of war, we appear to be blind to the need to invest in the protection of life.

If we detected a monster asteroid in space now, with our name on it and had time to prepare, it is entirely predictable that humanity would move as one to meet the crisis.

Must we wait for a catastrophe to arrive before we act, as by that stage it may be too late?

Though the cost of establishing space industry would be considerable, this would be an investment in our survival and future prosperity.

Considering the unlimited stellar energy pouring from the Sun and the raw materials available in the Moon and asteroids that can be processed into any product, it is easy to see that a line would be reached in space development, beyond which there would be no further cost to Earth.

In my 2006 document, 'Creating A Solar Civilization', in which I explore the future that we could create, I describe this as the Liberty Line. [3]

The return on the investment beyond the Liberty Line, from across the Solar System and among the stars, would be infinite.

In this future we can look toward the design of a stellar economy without poverty, one that delivers a healthy and creative life for all Earth's children.

We have reached the end of our childhood on Earth and now we must reach to the stars, if we wish to assure our survival and realise our full potential as a mature stellar civilization.

As long as we cling to this planet alone, we live in an extended juvenile stage, where all our growth is forced into the organism of the Earth, leading to a form of cancer on this planet, a disease that could become terminal if the carbon crisis becomes a runaway greenhouse effect, described by James Hansen as the Venus syndrome. [4]

Should Australia take on the challenge of kick-starting our stellar future as a national project, by using our resources to invest in solar power stations in space?

We could seek collaboration with friendly nations like India, who are already considering an investment in space power. [5]

We cannot rely on the powers that be to protect the Earth or life, as we have been waiting for this to happen since we discovered the Earth from the Moon, with the Earthrise image of December 1968.

In the age of democracy, if the people of Earth decide it is time to win back a safe Earth and invest in our cosmic survival, then the action can be in the hands of empowered individuals to make all the difference in the world.

It may take ten million people moving as one to demand action on a survival vision and should this happen, many more will join the push for a mature future on Earth and in space.

The powers that be will then be keen to listen, as all politicians require votes to remain in politics and all enterprise requires customers to remain in business.

In the age of the Internet, people can connect instantly globally with Emails, Skype discussions, post information on websites and also meet with other people globally in an extension of the Internet, called the virtual world, which was launched in 2003 in its form where the user creates the content, as Second Life.

There are now many virtual worlds where people meet globally and communicate directly with typed messages and voice. [6]

According to one report last year there are now over a billion registered users of the virtual world in all its forms. [7]

The tools are at our fingertips now to meet globally and plan local action toward building our celestial future, so what are we waiting for?

With the unlimited stellar energy of the Sun, we would also be able to swiftly win back a safe Earth, by having the level of energy necessary to extract excess carbon from our planet's biosphere.

With stellar energy, we could also reprocess extracted carbon back into a useful resource for Earth and space industries.

Better to reach for the stars, than be left thunderstruck in the dust of old mines, when the next monster rock from space arrives to kiss the Earth with death.

Notes ~

[1] See my Tasmanian Times article, 'A Deeper Level of Denial' ~

[2] 'Pale Blue Dot' by Carl Sagan, 1994, p.371

[3] 'Creating A Solar Civilization' by Kim Peart, written while living by the canal in Lauderdale, Tasmania, the original version is hosted on an Italian website ~
In January 2012 the document was revised and upgraded and in this form is posted on the Space Pioneers website ~
Creating a Solar Civilization

[4] 'Storms of My Grandchildren' by James Hansen, 2009, p.223

[5] 'China proposes space collaboration with India', The Times of India, 2 Nov 2012 ~

[6] 'Virtual World', Wikipedia ~

[7] '1 Billion Virtual World Users: and They're Mostly Pre-Teen Girls' by Kristen Nicole, Silicon Angle, 1 Oct 2012 ~

Image ~

A meteor streaks across the sky above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, before exploding. Image from here ~

Published ~

Tasmanian Times, 1 April 2013

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