89.3 KPCC Southern California Public Radio discusses Yeoman’s Near-Earth Objects on AirTalk Program

AirTalk | December 10th, 2012, 10:43am

While it seems that the occurrence of natural disasters is constantly on the rise, we can all be thankful that the worst possible scenario has yet to happen. Most people think of floods or earthquakes as the worst offenders to life and infrastructure, but the most potentially damaging threat is actually hanging above our heads.

Asteroids, and other “near-Earth objects,” could wipe out every single living thing if one of them were to crash into the planet. That’s why NASA created the Near-Earth Object Program Office as an effort to detect such threats to Earth and humanity. The manager of this program, Jet Propulsion Laboratory senior research scientist Donald Yeomans, has compiled some of the insight from his work in this field into a new book.

Read the rest of the article on SCPR’s AirTalk website: Objects in telescope are closer than they appear

About Near-Earth Objects: Of all the natural disasters that could befall us, only an Earth impact by a large comet or asteroid has the potential to end civilization in a single blow. Yet these near-Earth objects also offer tantalizing clues to our solar system’s origins, and someday could even serve as stepping-stones for space exploration. In this book, Donald Yeomans introduces readers to the science of near-Earth objects–its history, applications, and ongoing quest to find near-Earth objects before they find us.

In its course around the sun, the Earth passes through a veritable shooting gallery of millions of nearby comets and asteroids. One such asteroid is thought to have plunged into our planet sixty-five million years ago, triggering a global catastrophe that killed off the dinosaurs. Yeomans provides an up-to-date and accessible guide for understanding the threats posed by near-Earth objects, and also explains how early collisions with them delivered the ingredients that made life on Earth possible. He shows how later impacts spurred evolution, allowing only the most adaptable species to thrive–in fact, we humans may owe our very existence to objects that struck our planet.

Yeomans takes readers behind the scenes of today’s efforts to find, track, and study near-Earth objects. He shows how the same comets and asteroids most likely to collide with us could also be mined for precious natural resources like water and oxygen, and used as watering holes and fueling stations for expeditions to Mars and the outermost reaches of our solar system.

Donald K. Yeomans is a fellow and senior research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he is manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office and supervisor of the Solar System Dynamics Group. He is the author of Comets: A Chronological History of Observation, Science, Myth, and Folklore.