Asteroids: Why Are They an American Problem?


Foreign Policy mag notes the mid-October deadline for the U.S. to decide what U.S. agency will get the joyous task of preventing planetary destruction via asteroid strike in its portfolio. But they ask: why must planet-saving always come down to us, Bruce Willis being a citizen notwithstanding?

But why, in this supposedly post-American world, is the United States expected to take the lead on this? Unlike, say, missile defense, asteroid detection and deterrence benefits all countries—if NASA does detect a potentially dangerous asteroid, chances are it's probably going to hit somewhere else. And unlike global warming, smaller developing countries can't say that the United States should accept more of the blame for asteroids. (Though Hugo Chavez could certainly try.)

Scientists have been urging the United Nations to coordinate international asteroid detection efforts for years. But despite coordinating work by the the U.N. Office for Outer Space Affairs(yes, there is one), progress seems to be slow-going. 

There are some promising signs of other powers starting to take the lead. The Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted a conference on international asteroid tracing earlier this year. Russia's space agency has also proposed a joint asteroid monitoring project with the European Union.

Will this sci-fi threat be the entering wedge for a tyrannical one-world government? Prognosis: doubtful. Ron Bailey wrote in tenuous defense of international governance to smash the asteroid threat for Reason back in 2005.