Los Angeles, October 23, 2003 – On October 23, 2003, at the annual meeting of The Space Frontier Foundation in Los Angeles, CA, the Board of Directors picked Richard Haase to head The Watch, an international project to promote efforts to find, monitor and deflect near earth objects (comets and asteroids) in time to prevent collisions with our planet. Mr. Haase grew up in the 1960’s watching the sky and launching rockets he had made at his family’s farm. He succeeds Richard Godwin, who served 5 years as Project Manager of The Watch.
The Watch calls people’s attention to the fact that we are all passengers on spaceship Earth, traveling at 66,000 miles per hour in our voyage around the Sun. Members of the organization are concerned that there are thousands of undetected near earth objects (each over 600 feet in diameter) that are also moving on orbits through our solar system at tens of thousands of miles per hour.
“Last year (in 2002) three objects came too close for comfort. Two of the objects were not discovered until several days after they had passed our home planet, Earth. One of those objects was about 1,000 feet in diameter. If it had hit a major city, buildings within a five mile radius that weren’t vaporized, would have been severely damaged. Millions of lives would have been lost,” warns Haase.
“Earth has received many warnings. More than 93 times, near earth objects have hit our world by surprise and left craters between 3 and 124 miles in diameter. At least two hit in the ocean making tidal waves over 200 feet high,” he said.
Haase points out that currently there is no adequately funded federal program for dealing with such threats from comets and asteroids. “Humanity is gambling with everything we have that a huge NEO won’t hit us by surprise,” he said. “We need to do more. A number of business leaders, astrophysicists, astronomers, and former astronauts are asking the general public to join together in both urging government decision-makers to adequately fund projects and in raising private funds for projects to find, monitor and deflect near earth objects before the danger is upon us.”
Haase said near earth objects should be explored. “Comets contain a resource precious to future space travelers – water. Many asteroids also contain a significant amount of valuable metals such as platinum, nickel and others. Educating people about the positive aspects of near earth objects is very important.”