SETI bioastro: Fw: An Open Letter to the Australian Federal Government from International Scien

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Date: Fri Feb 01 2002 - 07:50:26 PST

----- Original Message -----
From: Peiser Benny
Sent: Friday, February 01, 2002 10:39 AM
To: cambridge-conference
Subject: An Open Letter to the Australian Federal Government from International Scientists

An Open Letter to the Australian Federal Government from International

The Hon John Howard, MP, Prime Minister of Australia
The Hon Peter McGauran, MP, Minister for Science
The Hon Dr Brendan Nelson, MP, Minister for Education, Science and Training
Senator the Hon Robert Hill, Minister for Defence
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP, Minister for the Environment and Heritage

Australia's contribution to Spaceguard

Spaceguard is the name given to an international effort to search the skies
for asteroids that might collide with the Earth. The name was coined by Sir
Arthur C Clarke in a 1973 novel that described how mankind set up an
asteroid detection and defence network after a large asteroid
struck Italy and devastated southern Europe. Since the novel was written the
risks and grave consequences of asteroid impacts have been recognised and
studied. Scientists around the globe are now working to ensure that Clarke's
scenario of a sudden, deadly impact does not occur.

The United States is the main contributor to the search effort, with several
telescopes dedicated to Spaceguard. Japan recently constructed a new
telescope facility for Spaceguard work and Europe is in the process of
setting up search telescopes and the vital support systems to analyse the
data from the searches.

Rob McNaught from Siding Spring in New South Wales runs the only
professional asteroid tracking project in the southern hemisphere. This
operation is funded mostly by the United States and is associated with the
Australian National University. It was set up in recognition of the need for
Spaceguard telescopes in the southern hemisphere. Gordon Garradd, an
astronomer from Loomberah in New South Wales, receives some funds from NASA
for critical southern hemisphere follow-up observations using a home-made

However, a much greater search effort, including a larger telescope, is
needed to detect asteroids that pass through southern skies. It would cost
several million dollars to set up a suitable facility in Australia but some
of this might be covered by contributions of equipment from the USA.
Operational costs should be less than $1 million per year. This is a highly
cost effective investment in the prevention of loss of life and severe
economic damage from asteroid impacts.

McNaught and Garradd were previously in a team of Australian astronomers,
led by Dr Duncan Steel, who searched for asteroids between the late 1980s
and 1996. They found about one third of new threatening asteroids discovered
during this period, demonstrating Australian expertise and the importance of
searching southern skies. Australian government funding for the project was
withdrawn in 1996 and the team disbanded.

The United Nations and the OECD have recognised the potential hazard to our
civilisation from asteroid impacts. This month the OECD is looking at the
issue as part of its Global Science Forum and recently asked developed
nations to indicate their plans to contribute to the Spaceguard effort.

A major global Spaceguard effort could provide decades of warning prior to
an impact. This would be sufficient time to refine the space technology
needed to nudge a threatening asteroid into a harmless orbit, or to evacuate
the predicted impact area. Without Spaceguard there would be too little
warning to prevent a disaster. This is clearly demonstrated by the recent
close approach of a 300m wide asteroid. It was discovered only a few days
before it passed by the Earth and, had it been on a collision course, there
is little that could have been done to prevent possibly millions of
casualties when an area the size of Tasmania would have been devastated.

We note that a spokesperson for Science Minister Peter McGuaran said that
the Government would look into renewing the funding of a dedicated
Australian Spaceguard programme (The Age, 9th January). We welcome this
reassessment of the issue and look forward to Australia rejoining the
international effort to deal with the asteroid threat.


Paul Abell, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA
Olga T. Aksenova, Blagoveschensk State University, Russia
Gennady V. Andreev, Astronomical Observatory of Tomsk State University,
John Anfinogenov, Tunguska Preserver, Siberia, Russia
Yana Anfinogenova, Siberian State Midical University, Russia
David Asher, Bisei Spaceguard Center, Japan
Mark Bailey, Armagh Observatory, UK
Mike Baillie, Queen's University, Belfast, N. Ireland
Michael J Barlow, University College London, UK
Andrea Boattini, IAS, Area Ricerca CNR Tor Vergata, Italy
Jiri Borovicka, Astronomical Institute, Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic
Mark Boslough, Sandia National Laboratories, USA
Peter Brown, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Western
Ontario, Canada
Larisa Budaeva, Tomsk State University, Siberia, Russia
Andrea Carusi, IAS, Area Ricerca CNR Tor Vergata, Italy
Silvano Casulli, Colleverde di Guidonia Observatory, Italy
Clark R. Chapman, Southwest Research Institute, USA
Andrew Cheng, Applied Physics Laboratory, USA
Paul Davies, Australian Centre for Astrobiology, Macquarie University,
Ann Druyan, CEO, Cosmos Studios, USA
Alan Fitzsimmons, Queen's University Belfast, UK
Giuseppe Forti, Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri, Firenze, Italy
Luigi Foschini, Istituto di Astrofisica Spaziale e Fisica Cosmica, Italy
Lou Friedman, The Planetary Society, USA
Michael J. Gaffey, Space Studies, University of North Dakota, USA
Jon Giorgini, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA
Valentina Gorbatenko, Tomsk Polytechnic University, Russia
Vic Gostin, Dept.Geology & Geophysics, University of Adelaide, Australia
Tom Gehrels, The University of Arizona, USA
Ian Griffin, Space Telescope Science Institute, USA
Valentin Grigore, The Romanian Society for Meteors and Astronomy (SARM),
Christian Gritzner, Dresden University of Technology, Germany
Gerhard J. Hahn, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Germany
Peter Haines, University of Tasmania, Australia
Eleanor Helin, NEAT Program, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA
Nigel Holloway, United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority & Spaceguard UK
Ola Karlsson, UDAS Program, Uppsala Astronomical Observatory, Sweden
Colin Keay, The University of Newcastle, Australia
Bob Kobres, University of Georgia, USA
Natal'ya V.Kolesnikova, Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia
Leif Kahl Kristensen, Institute of Physics and Astronomy, University of
Aarhus, Denmark
Karl S. Kruszelnicki, School of Physics, The University of Sydney, Australia
Evgeniy M. Kolesnikov, Moscow State University, Russia
Korado Korlevic, Visnjan Observatory - Spaceguard HR, Croatia
Eugeny Kovrigin, Tomsk State University, Siberia, Russia
Richard Kowalski - Quail Hollow Observatory, USA
Yurij Krugly, Astronomical Observatory of Kharkiv National University,
David H. Levy, Jarnac Observatory, USA
Dmitrij Lupishko, Kharkiv National University, Ukraine
Terry Mahoney, Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, Spain
Brian Marsden, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, USA
Bruce Mackenzie, National Space Society, USA
Ilan Manulis, The Israeli Astronomical Association, Israel
Austin Mardon, Antarctic Institute of Canada
Jean-Luc Margot, California Institute of Technology, USA
Gianluca Masi, Bellatrix Observatory, Italy
Alain Maury, CNRS, France
John McFarland, Armagh Observatory, UK
Natalya Minkova, Tomsk State University, Russia
Joe Montani The University of Arizona, USA
Darrel Moon, Oxnard College, California, USA
Thomas G. Mueller, Max-Planck-Institut, Garching, Germany
Bill Napier, Armagh Observatory, UK
Chernykh Nikolaj, Crimean Astrophysical Observatory, Crimea, Ukraine
Steve Ostro, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA
Trevor Palmer, Nottingham Trent University, UK
Benny Peiser, Liverpool John Moores University, UK
Joaquin Perez, Universidad de Alcala, Spain
Paul Roche, University of Glamorgan, UK
Maria Eugenia Sansaturio, University of Valladolid, Spain
Lutz D. Schmadel, Astronomisches Rechen-Institut Heidelberg, Germany
Hans Scholl, Observatoire de la Cote d'Azur, France
Vladimir A. Shefer, Astronomical Observatory, Tomsk State University, Russia
Carolyn Shoemaker, Lowell Observatory, USA
Vadim A. Simonenko, Space Shield Foundation, Russia
S Fred Singer, University of Virginia, USA
Giovanni Sostero, Remanzacco observatory, Italy
Reiner M. Stoss, Starkenburg Observatory, Germany
Jay Tate, International Spaceguard Information Centre, UK
Luciano Tesi, Osservatorio di San Marcello Pistoiese, Italy
Jana Ticha, Klet Observatory, Czech Republic
Josep M. Trigo-Rodriguez , University Jaume, Spain
Roy A. Tucker, Goodricke-Pigott Observatory, Arizona, USA
Harry Varvoglis, Department of Physics, Aristotle University of
Thessaloniki, Greece
Gerrit L. Verschuur, University of Memphis, USA
Fiona Vincent, University of St.Andrews, Scotland, UK
Dejan Vinkovic, University of Kentucky, USA
Vladimir Vorobyov, Pomor State University n.a. M.V. Lomonosov, Russia
Chandra Wickramasinghe, Cardiff University, Wales, UK
Gareth Williams, Minor Planet Center, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory,
Don Yeomans, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA
Oleg M. Zaporozhets, Kamchatka State University, Russia
Krzysztof Ziolkowski, Space Research Centre, Warsaw, Poland

A PDF copy of the letter and press release can be viewed at

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