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Johnson-Freese: Space Threats Include Public's Lack of Knowledge about Space Benefits

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 20-Mar-2013
Updated: 21-Mar-2013 12:06 AM

Naval War College Professor Joan Johnson-Freese made the case today that one of the space threats to worry about is the threat from the public's lack of understanding of the benefits from space.

Johnson-Freese testified at a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee hearing on "Assessing the Risks, Impacts, and Solutions for Space Threats."    Most of the hearing dealt with threats from asteroids and comets, a topic also addressed at a House committee hearing yesterday.  A SpacePolicyOnline.com summary of the two hearings is forthcoming.

Her testimony highlighted a different set of issues.  Saying that space is not the next frontier or the final frontier, she called it the "benignly neglected" frontier.  Although the public is aware of GPS, "that's about it" she argued.   They do not appreciate the overall economic and national security implications of space.  "Space exploration and development is not expendable.  It is in our strategic national interest."

As for the threat from asteroids, she believes that Hollywood movies like Armageddon lead to a sense of complacency among the public.  That movie created a public perception that if an asteroid threatens Earth "people would get in the shuttle and go fix it.  It was myth ... not reality."  What actually is needed, she continued, is obtaining more information about asteroids as outlined by other witnesses at the hearing -- NASA's Jim Green and B612 Foundation's Ed Lu.   "We need to convey more of the fact and separate it from the fiction that the movie industry has really convinced ... the public that ... we can take care of it."

 


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