Asteroid Day – Our Story

In February 2014, Dr. Brian May, astrophysicist and famed guitarist for the rock band QUEEN, began working with Grigorij Richters, the director of a new film titled 51 Degrees North, a fictional story of an asteroid impact on London and the resulting human condition. May composed the music for the film and suggested that Richters preview it at Starmus, an event organized by Dr. Garik Israelian and attended by esteemed astrophysicists, scientists and artists, including Dr. Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins and Rick Wakeman. The result was the beginning of discussions that would lead to the launch of Asteroid Day in 2015.

To insure that the nascent idea of a movement had global support, May then introduced Richters to the B612 Foundation, an American-based non-profit advocacy organization created to protect the world from dangerous asteroids through early detection. B612 co-founders Apollo 9 Astronaut Rusty Schweickart and three-time Astronaut Dr. Ed Lu, along with Danica Remy, Chief Operations Officer, brought to Asteroid Day a network of planetary defense specialists and global contacts.  The four official co-founders of Asteroid Day are: Dr Brian May, Danica Remy (COO of B612), Grigorij Richters and Rusty Schweickart.

The Asteroid Day co-founders, along with Dr. Ed Lu, Astronaut Tom Jones and Dr. Mark Boslough, a well-respected asteroid scientist, drafted the 100X Asteroid Declaration. Early signers of the 100X Asteroid Declaration were global leaders such as Lord Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal of the UK, musical artist Peter Gabriel and other planetary defense experts. The co-founders subsequently sought the endorsement of the 100X Asteroid Declaration by over 100 astronauts, nobel laureates, entertainers and business leaders around the world. The public announcement of the 100X Asteroid Declaration and claiming of June 30th as Asteroid Day began the journey towards a global grassroots campaign with tens of thousands of supporters across the globe.

THE 100X DECLARATION

More than 1M asteroids have the potential to impact Earth and through all the available telescopes worldwide, we have discovered only about one percent. The 100X Declaration calls for increasing the asteroid discovery rate to 100,000 (or 100x) per year within the next 10 years. “The more we learn about asteroid impacts, the clearer it became that the human race has been living on borrowed time,” remarked Brian May. “Asteroid Day and the 100X Declaration are ways for the public to contribute to an awareness of the Earth’s vulnerability and the realization that Asteroids hit Earth all the time.”  Asteroid Day would the vehicle to garner public support to increase our knowledge of when asteroids might strike and how we can protect ourselves.”

“Early warning is the essential ingredient of planetary defense,” said Rusty Schweickart, Apollo 9 Astronaut, founder of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) and chair of the Asteroid Day Expert Panel.  “Time is the issue.  At the current rate of discovery of 20 meter NEOs and larger at about 1000/year, it will take more than 1,000 years to find one million NEOs that potentially threaten Earth.  That’s a long time and even then we’d have reached only 10% or so of the Chelyabinsk-size objects that potentially threaten impact.

A Press Conference to announce the launch of Asteroid Day was held simultaneously in London and San Francisco on December 3, 2014. Representing Asteroid Day in London were Richters, May and Rees, and in San Francisco, Schweichart, Lu and Tom Jones, President of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE). Lord Martin Rees read the 100X Declaration and the list of signatories for the 100x Asteroid Declaration rapidly grew to include hundreds of esteemed scientists, physicists, astronauts, and Nobel Laureates from 30 countries and leaders in business and the arts. Original signers include Anousheh Ansari, Stewart Brand, Brian Cox, Richard Dawkins, Alan Eustace, Peter Gabriel, Steve Jurvetson, Jane Luu, Dr. Brian May, Greg McAdoo, Peter Norvig, Helen Sharman, Jill Tarter, Kip Thorne and more than 38 astronauts and cosmonauts.

Today, the 100X Declaration has been signed by more than 22,000 private citizens.

For a full listing of notable signatories, visit: http://www.asteroidday.org/signatories-list

What began as a scientifically-based declaration about the need for rapid discovery of asteroids to ensure the defense of our planet, grew to a global movement of awareness regarding this solvable nature-caused problem that included more than 500 self-organized events around the globe across 72 countries. Through the technological capabilities of the scientists on our planet, Asteroid Day put out the challenge to collectively obtain the data about our solar system that will allow us to have the knowledge about our near-Earth objects in order to prevent future destruction to our planet and subsequently verity efforts to deflect those asteroids away from Earth’s orbit.

The story behind Asteroid Day

Narrated by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

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