Informing NASA’s Asteroid Initiative: Your Chance to Participate!

By Arvind Suresh (Editor) | August 28, 2014 1:00 pm
Asteroid Sample Retrieval

Asteroid Sample Retrieval

August 28, 2014


In its history, the Earth has been repeatedly struck by asteroids, large chunks of rock from space that can cause considerable damage in a collision. Can we—or should we—try to protect Earth from potentially hazardous impacts?

How about harvesting asteroids for potential economic benefits? What do we do if we find an asteroid that threatens Earth? How should we balance costs, risks, and benefits of human exploration in space?

Sounds like stuff just for rocket scientists. But how would you like to be part of this discussion?

An innovative project between NASA (the US government’s space agency) and a group led by Arizona State University called ECAST—Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology—is planning to do just that: give ordinary citizens a voice in the future of space exploration.

The “Informing NASA’s Asteroid Initiative” project will hold forums this fall to engage ordinary citizens in active dialogue about NASA’s Asteroid Initiative. Discussion will cover topics from how to detect threatening asteroids, planetary defense strategies, and how the exploration of asteroids is part of the future of human space exploration.

“Public engagement is crucial to the effective development of science and technology policy,” said David Guston, Co-director of the Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes (CSPO), one of the founding members of ECAST. “It is essential to consider input from diverse constituents, and nowhere are citizens’ values, hopes and dreams more important than in the future of the planet and the future of humans in space.”

The citizen forums will engage diverse publics in respectful, reflective and informed conversations, both face-to-face and online. The goal is to enable participants to learn about such issues, develop their own questions, and make recommendations based on their own values and interests.

Jason Kessler, Asteroid Grand Challenge and LAUNCH Program Executive at NASA, said “These forums are a direct result of the Asteroid Initiative Request for Information process—ECAST submitted a proposal that was highly ranked and well received at the 2013 Asteroid Initiative Workshop. This is the next step in public engagement, allowing us to directly engage in a meaningful two-way dialog and provide valuable insight for continued planning of the Asteroid Initiative.”

Concept using robotic arms to retrieve a boulder from the surface of an asteroid

Concept using robotic arms to retrieve a boulder from the surface of an asteroid

ECAST is a network of different institutions, launched in 2010, to provide a 21st Century model for technology assessment. It combines the research strengths of universities like Arizona State University with the skills of nonpartisan policy research organizations and the education and outreach capabilities of science museums and citizen science programs. “Science museums have a long history of making complex science topics interesting and accessible to public audiences. With the help of our ECAST partners we’ve developed the techniques to give lay publics the opportunity to consider the societal impacts of scientific and technological advances and to share their views with the experts. We are excited to be able to do this for NASA’s Asteroid Initiative,” said Larry Bell, Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives at the Museum of Science in Boston.

Three of the five ECAST founding partners, the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes (CSPO) at ASU, the Museum of Science, Boston and are working with NASA to design, convene and evaluate citizen forums in Phoenix and Boston, and also online. The in person forums will each comprise about 100 demographically diverse participants selected to be representative of the two geographies. The online forum will be open to all and representative of diverse geographies. The report and assessments from the forums will provide input to the asteroid initiative and ideas for future asteroid-related public engagement activities.

“Citizen science connects people with varied interests, from nature lovers to Makers, to engage in civic and science activities,” said Darlene Cavalier, founder of SciStarter. “With NASA’s Asteroid Initiative, we are expanding the scope of citizen science to also empower people who want to be part of conversations and developments shaping science, technology and related policy.”

For more information on the project or to sign up to receive updates visit

Images courtesy of NASA


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ECAST is a collaboration among university, informal science education, and policy research partners to establish a non-partisan, independent, flexible, and proactive technology assessment capability in the United States.

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The Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes is an intellectual network aimed at enhancing the contribution of science and technology to society’s pursuit of equality, justice, freedom, and overall quality of life. The Consortium creates knowledge and methods, cultivates public discourse, and fosters policies to help decision makers and institutions grapple with the immense power and importance of science and technology as society charts a course for the future.

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One of the world’s largest science centers and New England’s most attended cultural institution, the Museum introduces about 1.5 million visitors a year to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) via dynamic programs and hundreds of interactive exhibits.

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 is a citizen science hotspot that connects people from all walks of life to the tools, resources, projects, and communities in need of their perspectives, data, talent, and wisdom.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Uncategorized
  • Jim LeSire

    Arrange for a sit-down meeting with the asteroids, either singly or in groups, and try to determine the causes of their hostility toward Earth, and develop alternative means of dealing with said angst. They might simply be jealous of our warm, life-giving environment and are angry about having to fly around all alone, for what must seem like an eternity in that empty, cold vacuum. Or maybe they don’t like the radiation that the sun constantlythrows at them. In any case, get the conversation started and see where it leads.

    • Nick

      I disagree. We do not negotiate with asteroids. We need to invade and make this galaxy safe for democracy.

      • Jim LeSire


        However, history has shown that a conquered people do not simply lay down their swords and die. Rather, their resentment smolders and eventually grows into an inferno of destructive vengeance. Witness the “Indian” casinos of America and the destructive effect they are having on the hapless victims who are drawn to their allure.

        It seems that a good “Bwahahaha” would be appropriate here…

      • Ciprian R

        Let’s invade Normandia!!!!!!!….The comets are backing up !

  • Uncle Al
    2/3 down the page

    1500 asteroids buzz the Earth. NASA is picking at scabs through social advocacy. Elon Musk or Richard Branson will send up a catcher’s mitt while Bill Gates multi-$billion whined Africa is not getting one high and inside.

    Performance bonuses award managerial process not product. Solving a problem unemploys its solvers. “to engage ordinary citizens” The 700,000 student Los Angeles Unified School District has a California Academic Performance Index-tested high school average IQ of 83-86. Add ECAST to the curriculum (with personal journals). “It is essential to consider input from diverse constituents” Coprophanaeus lancifer would gorge on NASA-harvested LAUSD diversity.

  • Ciprian R

    Use solar energy,don’t know ,the glassy,nerdy look-alike dudes will come up with something,after all those billions spent by NASA and Com,they still need a second oppinion….g,suddenly I feel so important!

  • Richard Baldasare

    NASA can send a ship to the Asteroid and lower a machine into the Asteroid that secures itself to the surface of the Asteroid. The machine would have thusters as on the space shuttles. The thusters would be turned on and slowly the Asteroid would move in another direction. As a sail on a sail boat makes the boat turn.


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About Arvind Suresh (Editor)

Arvind Suresh has a Master's degree in Cell Biology and Molecular Physiology from the University of Pittsburgh and a Bachelors degree in Biotechnology from PSG College of Technology, India. He is also an information addict, gobbling up everything he can find on and off the internet. He enjoys reading, teaching, talking and writing science, and following that interest led him to SciStarter. Outside the lab and the classroom, he can be found behind the viewfinder of his camera.


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