At the time of the declaration in December 2014, it was thought that there were roughly one million near-Earth asteroids with a diameter of around 70 metres that had the potential to impact Earth at some stage in the future. Yet, only about one percent of this population had been discovered. (1)
The diameter of 70 metres was important because it is the estimated size of the asteroid that exploded over the Tunguska region of Russia on 30 June 1908. The blast flattened an area of forest larger than a modern city.
Hence, the 100x Declaration was written to call for an increase in the rate of near-Earth asteroid discovery by a factor of 100 within the next ten years. This would mean accelerating the detection rate to find 100,000 near-Earth asteroids a year.
“The more we learn about asteroid impacts, the clearer it became that the human race has been living on borrowed time,” said 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 be 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 former chair of the Asteroid Day Expert Panel.
A Press Conference to announce the launch of Asteroid Day was held simultaneously in London and San Francisco on 3 December 2014. Representing Asteroid Day in London were Grig Richters, Brian May and Lord Martin Rees, and in San Francisco, Rusty Schweickart, Ed 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. A illustrative list of notable signers today include Anousheh Ansari, Mayim Bialik, Broken Bells, Stewart Brand, Sarah Brightman, Brian Cox, Richard Dawkins, Peter Gabriel, Terry Gilliam, † Stephen Hawking, Steve Jurvetson, Peter Norvig, Bill Nye, Helen Sharman, Nicole Stott, Jill Tarter, Kip Thorne, Silvia Torres-Peimbert and more than 78 astronauts and cosmonauts.
What began with a scientifically-based declaration about the need for the rapid discovery of near-Earth asteroids to ensure the safety of our planet, has now grown into a global movement of awareness regarding this preventable natural disaster. Thousands of independently-organised events have taken place around the globe, encompassing 125 of the world’s 195 countries.