I caught this at the end of an article about how (thankfully), we probably won’t end up wasting too much more money on manned space travel:
Nasa’s budgetary woes are also hampering efforts to keep an eye on asteroids that might travel too close to Earth. The agency needs about $300m to expand a network of telescopes and meet the government’s target of identifying, by 2020, at least 90% of the giant space rocks that pose a threat to Earth. Congress has not come up with the money and is unlikely to, according to the National Academy of Science.
Three hundred million may sound like a reasonable amount of money, but it’s about one one-thousandth of the low end of the estimated price for sending humans to Mars. It’s significantly less than the cost of a single space shuttle mission. I also suspect that this telescope network would have much greater scientific value than shuttle missions (which isn’t saying much).
This puts me in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with Gregg Easterboork and Jonah Goldberg. Now, Gregg and Jonah argue their points quite stupidly, as you would expect; Easterbrook’s argument is based on faulty statistical reasoning and Goldberg’s is “I saw ‘Deep Impact’ and Al Gore is fat”. But for $300 million, a near-earth asteroid detection system seems like money well spent to me.