Sunday, July 31, 2011

Near Earth Object Discovered

The Lunar Science Forum at NASA Ames finished this week. According to press releases, the new plan is for humans to reach an Near Earth Object by 2025. However the technology needed, such as heavy lift boosters and a crew capsule, is struggling for funding. The challenges of taking a crew millions of miles from Earth are daunting. Studies have found that the NEO's we can reach by 2025 are mostly small, with diameters of 20-40 meters. The public may not be excited about spending billions to reach such small objects. Researchers can point to little science on an NEO that can not be accomplished with unmanned spacecraft. Some doubt if there is a goal at all.

Fortunately NASA has discovered this Near Earth Object only 384,400 kilometers away. It is large enough to support multiple missions. It is known to contain water and other resources that astronauts could exploit. The possible benefits to science would be enormous, from geology to astronomy. As one example, a radio telescope on the far side of this object would be shielded from the electromagnetic noise of Earth. Possibly after looking at more distant NEO's, the US will consider going here first.

As readers of this blog know, the Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment (LLRE) has found evidence that light is slowing down as we speak. A simple expression GM=tc^3 predicts that this object 384,400 kilometers away will appear to recede an additional 0.935 cm/yr. Data from LLRE, when compared with other experiments, verifies the prediction more precisley that Mercury's precession. Science has so far overlooked the evidence, even though it stares us in the face each night.