Los Angeles, CA, July 1, 1998 – Two private space organizations today aimed a $50,000 challenge grant to find killer asteroids and comets squarely at the Hollywood studios behind the films “Deep Impact” and “Armageddon” – motion pictures which depict the mass destruction that such objects might wreak if they hit the Earth. The challenge, announced by the Space Frontier Foundation and FINDS (the Foundation for the Non-Governmental Development of Space), kicked off fundraising for a project called The Watch that will not only support the search for NEOs (Near Earth Objects), but will also bring together top experts to advise governments around the world on this issue.
“The film industry has done an excellent job educating people about the very real threat NEOs pose to our civilization, and is making millions of dollars at the same time,” stated Rick Tumlinson, president of the Space Frontier Foundation. “Meanwhile, there is very little money going to support the handful of heroic people doing the actual work of finding and tracking these potential Earth killers. There are astronomers who cannot afford to turn on their telescopes. Hollywood is making a lot of money playing off of the fear – now it’s time for them to ante up.”
The goal of The Watch is to raise one million dollars a year to fund various astronomers and observatories around the world. Dr. John Lewis of the University of Arizona, a top expert on NEOs and author of a leading book on the subject, Rain of Iron and Ice, is helping to forming an advisory council composed of some of the top experts in the field. The group will meet for the first time at the Space Frontier Foundation’s conference in Los Angeles in October 1998, and will supervise the distribution of funds and create policy recommendations for federal and international governments.
“NEOs are literally floating gold mines,” said Tumlinson. “Some contain water ice and other chemicals useful to future space travelers, and still others vast quantities of iron, gold and platinum class metals. Imagine – rather than ripping the top off a forest – covered mountain here on Earth, we can mine these dead and potentially dangerous objects in space. The beauty of this project is that the same search can reveal both the threat and the promise of these objects.”
FINDS is a $13 million dollar endowment that funds breakthrough projects that will open space to the people of Earth. It is currently funding other asteroid related projects, including long term NEO tracking at the University of Victoria in Canada and the development of technologies for extracting iron from asteroids at the University of Arizona. The Space Frontier Foundation is leading The Watch project for FINDS.