The B612 Foundation

I just got a press release on the Russian bolide explosion:

The B612 Foundation believes we should find threatening asteroids before they find us. Today’s meteor explosion over Chelyabinsk is a wake-up call that the Earth orbits the Sun in a shooting gallery of asteroids, and that these asteroids sometimes hit the Earth. Later today, a separate and larger asteroid, 2012 DA14, narrowly missed the Earth passing beneath the orbits of our communications satellites. We have the technology to deflect asteroids, but we cannot do anything about the objects we don’t know exist. To date, less than 1% of asteroids larger than the one that leveled Tunguska in 1908 have been tracked. The B612 Foundation Sentinel Space Telescope, to be launched in 2018, will provide a comprehensive map of the locations and trajectories of threatening asteroids and will give humanity the decades of warning needed to prevent asteroid impacts with existing technology. By the end of its planned lifetime, Sentinel will have discovered well over 90% of the asteroids that could destroy entire regions of Earth on impact (those larger than 350ft in diameter) and more than 50% of the currently unknown DA14-like near-Earth asteroids.

The B612 Foundation has undertaken this Sentinel project as a non-governmental initiative, somewhat akin to a growing number of private space ventures originated in the past few years. The oundation, however, is not undertaking this project for profit; we are a non-profit corporation. Our motivation is strictly to ensure the survival of life on Earth – all of it. And while NASA is cooperating with us by providing certain communication and analytic services, we are excited, as a private venture, to welcome the participation of *all* the crew of Spaceship Earth in this great endeavor.

Does the crew of Spaceship Earth raise our awareness and accept responsibility for our voyage into the future? Or do we sit back as passengers, comfortably assuming that there must be a captain and crew doing this job on our behalf?

The B612 Sentinel mission is testament to our belief that we, together, are responsible for the future of life on our small planet; we invite you to join us ( and on twitter @b612foundation) in addressing this cosmic challenge.

It’s certainly a good opportunity to raise awareness of the issue. This was the most devastating impact on record, in terms of human injuries.

24 thoughts on “The B612 Foundation

  1. Thomas Matula

    Peter Diamandis also has an op-ed that discusses Planetary Resources.

    [[[On the production floor of Planetary Resources Inc, we also now have full-scale mechanical prototypes of the Arkyd-100 Series, which is the first line in its family of deep-space prospecting spacecraft. According to our President & Chief Engineer, Chris Lewicki, "The Arkyd-100 Series will be the most advanced spacecraft per kilogram that has ever been built. The system will be highly capable and cost-effective, which will allow for a constellation of them to be launched. That efficiency will not only fast-track our asteroid prospecting effort, but will also lend a hand in scientific discovery and planetary defense."]]]

  2. Fred Weldon

    Rand, this has been bugging me all day, maybe you or someone else can explain it to this astronomically ignorant musician: We knew that 2012 DA14 was coming, but apparently nobody saw the Russian meteorite coming. Was it too small? Did they not look in that direction? Or is it just that we don’t have enough eyes in the sky? I’m not trying to assign blame, I’m genuinely curious.

    1. McGehee

      The Chelyabinsk rock was supposedly only ten to 20 tons and just a few meters across. I’m not sure we have any telescopes with that kind of resolution even if it had passed directly across the field of view.

      Space is really, really huge, and really, really poorly lit.

      1. Edward Wright

        Those suppositions are low. NASA is saying it was 15 meters in diameter and about 7000 metric tons.

      2. George Turner

        If the velocity was 40,000 mph (17,882 m/sec) then 10 tons would have a KE of 382 tons of TNT, while 7,000 tons would have a KE of 267 kilotons.

        I’m skeptical of the low end mass estimates because they’re not much more massive than a Soyuz re-entry module, and those don’t blow out widows and knock down factories.

    1. George Turner

      That’s not what actually happens. With a bigger, lower explosion the uploaders we saw would be featured in Youtube videos made by people slightly further away from the impact, and those videos would be just as good as the ones we got because the explosion would’ve seemed closer to them, since it was much bigger. In fact, the more spectacular footage combined with a big death toll should result in far more Youtube views, a trend that would continue until the point of diminishing returns where too many potential Youtube viewers are being incinerated by the meteor strike.

      When our species goes extinct the last remnants found by alien archeologists will be a bunch of videos saying “Gosh! Look at THAT! This will be a Youtube sensation!”

  3. Gregg

    So Diamandis claims we can mine fuel from the asteroids. That’s pretty nifty if true. I’m sure the numbers have been run but I wonder what sorts of energy it takes to bend the velocity of the mined fuel from the asteroid’s speed and direction to one more useful to us.

    1. Peterh

      Not fuel, propellant, aka reaction mass. Though some forms of reaction mass may be converted to fuel with energy input. Eg. H2O => H2 + O2. Given a suited reaction mass, solar or nuclear power can provide the energy.

      Asteroids with a small velocity increment to move to a desirable orbit are preferred. Some of these are potential future impactors. Most will be found in prime search areas for potential impactors.

      2012 DA14 was in a good orbit for this before the recent encounter. The new orbit is more eccentric, more delta V from Earth.

      1. Gregg

        “Not fuel, propellant, aka reaction mass.”

        Oh I see. Ok so you throw dirt out the back. got it.

        “Asteroids with a small velocity increment to move to a desirable orbit are preferred. ”

        Please define “small”. That’s the point of my question. 17,000 miles away is nice but the velocity vector is pretty bad. On the face of it it would seem to me that it would take a LOT of energy to move the useful minerals in such a way as to make them…well…useful.

        But since I haven’t run any numbers, and someone assuredly has, I’m assuming it’s all reasonably doable. Otherwise talk about mining asteroids for platinum seems a trifle silly.

          1. Gregg

            “Yes, in space its not distance, its the Delta V that is key.”

            Just exactly what did you think my following sentence meant:

            ” 17,000 miles away is nice but the velocity vector is pretty bad.”

            That is…if you even bothered to read it….which I doubt.

      2. Robin Goodfellow

        Both. Space “rocks” contain volatiles including water ice and carbon compounds. We’ve found ice in meteorites before, for example. Even at low concentrations if you can effectively mine through and process an entire asteroid there’s a crap-ton of material that can be used to make chemical rocket propellant using simple infrastructure and solar power.

  4. rickl

    This was the most devastating impact on record, in terms of human injuries.

    That’s probably true, but I remember reading years ago that there was an ancient Chinese chronicle that described a number of people being killed by rocks falling from the sky. I don’t have a source, though.

    1. Thomas Matula


      Dr. John Lewis in his book “Rain of Fire and Ice” has a excellent table several pages long that list all such events known when the book was written and that is one of the events listed.

      BTW one of the more interesting speculations has been that the Midwest fires of October 1871 were the result of an impact event. Although the possibility is very very unlikely for the Chicago Fire, there is possibility that it would explain the Peshtigo Fire Storm which was estimated to have killed 1200 individuals. It was reported to have “started in the sky” by some survivors while others claimed to have heard “explosions” when it started, perhaps a small air burst over tender dried trees (from a long drought)?

      BTW I often thought it might be an interesting project to take some samples from lake sediments from the region to see if there was anything interesting mixed in with the ashes from that period.

    1. Arizona CJ

      What we clearly need is a new federal law along the lines of some of the proposed assault-weapon confiscation proposals;

      All earth-crossing NEOs have 90 days to either turn themselves in or permanently remove themselves to beyond the orbit of Mars. Failure to do so will result in up to five years in a federal penitentiary and a $500,000 fine.

      NASA would then have a new mission; sending deputized astronauts to any scofflaw NEOs to read them their rights and place them under arrest, and then send them directly to federal prison.

      I’m sure it would be every bit as effective as the proposed assault weapons ban, and have as high a rate of compliance, too.

    2. Gregg

      You are absolutely right Josh…

      I say we pass a law saying the solar system cannot “own” asteroids through the use of the gravitational sources. All must be given up.

      There…..we’re safe.

  5. Greg Tuve

    Mr. Simberg, your analysis of the possibility that the near miss and the oddly coincidental russian meteorite might be “related” was the first competent analysis I’ve seen. I then read your update saying that the two solar orbits were roughly at right angles… so they weren’t related. For me, the sudden flurry of these events is simply too close together in time. I saw one report of an impact in cuba–and heard about other much smaller events in california and florida if memory serves. It can be shown mathematically that the closer two events are in time, the more likely it is that they are causally related. Indirect causality, where one event precipitates two or more subsequent events tends to cause events to be even closer together in time than direct causality (A causes B). Imagine for example, that the rocks in question emerged from a collision between earth and mars: The resulting rocks would have likely had very different solar orbits from the beginning, yet, leaving with roughly equivalent speeds, might easily return to the same point at about the same time but from vastly different directions. It’s impossible to draw firm conclusions, but if we use a timeline 100 years long, the probability that two “unrelated” events would occur within the same 2 day period is about 5/100,000 if my math is correct. Since the odds of the two events being UNrelated are easily over 99 to 1 against, the math shows it’s a virtual certainty that they were related. You could attack this line of reasoning by pointing out that the length of the timeline was arbitrarily chosen, but I would parry by saying that major events seem to be happening about every 100 years (judging from this one and tunguska). I’d love to hear from you at the above e-mail.

Comments are closed.