Weiner wants funds to track asteroids

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A Queens congressman made a move in the House of Representatives last Thursday to stop Armageddon.

U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Kew Gardens) introduced the Space act, which would channel $4 million into NASA coffers next year to underwrite the cost of sharing four Department of Defense telescopes to help track and catalog dangerous, near-Earth asteroids.

“Asteroids are probably the last thing on most people’s minds, but they’ve hit us before and scientists tell us they’ll hit us again,” Weiner said in a press release. “So making a modest investment in prevention is a sensible thing to do.”

The legislation came after last month’s near miss with a 328-foot-wide asteroid.

Asteroid 2004 FH, as scientists call it, passed within about 26,000 miles of the Earth on March 18, according to NASA.

If 2004 FH had struck the Earth, it could have created a crater the size of Central Park, Weiner’s office said.

Weiner is a member of the House Science Committee, and his spokesman Anson Kaye said the issue of asteroids has surfaced from time to time during Weiner’s six years in Washington.

Scientists say asteroids make their way close to Earth’s flight path about once or twice every two years, according to Weiner’s office.

Some scientists have linked an asteroid strike to the extinction of the dinosaurs 65,000 years ago.

Weiner’s office said scientists are on the lookout from five places in the United States for potentially dangerous asteroids. And by 2008, NASA should be able to spot 90 percent of near-Earth space bodies larger than one meter across. But that leaves a lot of smaller — but no less deadly — asteroids out there.

The legislation would give NASA access to the 5-foot-11-inch Department of Defense telescopes, which are under development, allowing the agency to identify smaller space bodies without overburdening the system, Weiner said.

“Anyone who grew up playing ‘Asteroids’ like I did knows that you have to be able to see them before you can shoot them down,” Weiner said.

Kaye said Weiner is working to gain support for the bill, which as of press time had not been referred to the committee, but with transportation and Department of Justice reauthorization bills on the floor, there were other issues that took precedence.

Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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