It might be time to pack the bags and run for the hills ... on a different planet.
According to a new report, NASA's asteroid defense system is a failure. The report was released on Sept. 15 by NASA Inspector General Paul Martin, and it points out how far behind the Near Earth Object Program is at meeting its objective.
In 2005, Congress concluded that near-Earth objects "pose a serious and credible threat to humankind." So they charged NASA with establishing the Near Earth Object Program. "The purpose of the Near Earth Object Program is to coordinate NASA-sponsored efforts to detect, track and characterize potentially hazardous asteroids and comets that could approach the Earth," the program's website explains.
But, after nine years, the program has only managed to identify approximately 10 percent of the near-Earth objects that Congress asked NASA to detect and track.
"Even though the program has discovered, categorized, and plotted the orbits of more than 11,000 NEOs since 1998, NASA will fall short of meeting the 2005 Authorization Act goal of finding 90 percent of NEOs larger than 140 meters in diameter by 2020," Martin reveals in the report.
Although many NASA initiatives are hindered by budget woes, that is apparently not an issue in this case. Martin points fingers at "a single program executive who manages a loosely structured conglomerate of research activities that are not well integrated and lack overarching program oversight, objectives, and established milestones to track progress."
The program's lack of coordination and structure leads Martin to suggest that it would function more efficiently and effectively if NASA were left to manage the program itself.
The Near Earth Object Program is also responsible for "facilitating communications between the astronomical community and the public should any potentially hazardous objects be discovered." But based on this recent disconcerting report, it doesn’t sound like anyone is equipped to sound the alarm.