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Hyakutake comet makes its closest approach to Earth as ABC World News concludes with a report about our unpreparedness for fending off a Rock aimed at our planet. Astronomer Neil Tyson of the Hayden Planetarium sums up, "I know of no way that we can stop it."

- ABC News 3/26/96

"One of the estimated thousand-plus giant near-earth objects (N.E.O.'s) is barreling down on us and only a year or so away…what could we do? Say good-bye to each other and regret that we didn't wake up to this sooner."

- The New York Times, 7/28/96

"The question is not if, but when…Before you launch a missile you need to know where to aim. Only a fraction of large Earth-crossing asteroids have been located, this may prove to be the greatest oversight in human history."

"I can tell you with confidence that, for the ten percent of the big ones that have been discovered, there is no danger. But I can tell you nothing about the 90 percent that we have not yet discovered. So, yes, we understand the general nature of the risks, but we have not yet taken any real concrete efforts to protect ourselves, or even to look and see if there's anything headed our way. Impacts today are a risk, they're a hazzard, they're something we need to protect ourselves against. If we don't learn how to protect ourselves against impacts, then in the long term we're likely to be wiped out by impacts. It happened to the dinosaurs, it can happen to us."

- Dr. David Morrison, Director of Space, NASA Ames,
Asteroids: Deadly Impact, National Geographic, NBC 2/26/97

"If an asteroid was on a final collision course there would be nothing we could do. We have no weapon capable of going into space to intercept this particular object."

- NORAD official, Doomsday: What Can We Do?, FOX 2/14/97

"If people knew that a fragment was going to hit the Earth, I wonder about the mass hysteria that would result. Where would you go? People would say, where can we hide, what can we do?"

- Carolyn Shoemaker Asteroids: Deadly Impact, National Geographic, NBC 2/26/97

"There's going to be a lot of feeling of helplessness and powerlessness and people are going to have to deal with the fact that they're not going to be able to do anything to prevent it."

- Disaster psychologist, Doomsday: What Can We Do?, FOX 2/14/97

"Scientists estimate there are…2000 Earth-crossers out there…If one of them were on a collision course with Earth, we wouldn't get more than a few months warning."

- Popular Mechanics 4/97

"Experts estimate that there are as many as half a million Earth-crossing asteroids and comets that have yet to be discovered…Current surveillance techniques discover an average of twelve new potentially threatening Near Earth Objects per year. But with an estimated two thousand NEOs uncharted, the chances of one entering our orbit undetected are extremely high…It is not a matter of if it will happen, but when. But even if we can detect an Earth-bound object months or years before impact, what can be done to avert a deadly collision?…Many of the leading researchers and scientists in the field fear that without additional funding current projects may be too little too late."

- Doomsday Asteroid, TLC 6/29/98

"At the moment Earth is defenseless against a large comet or asteroid headed for the planet. Scientists and other star warriors are exploring a variety of defensive schemes."

- Newsweek, 3/24/97

"Experts warn that space based weapons would have to be perfected if we hope to defend against a heavenly body on a predicted collision course with Earth."

- Prophecies of the Millennium, FOX 7/30/97

"Most people have a misconception of our capability to shoot down an incoming asteroid. We can track it through space and we'll know where it's going to land, but we have no weapon capable of going into space to intercept this particular object and try to destroy it or veer it off course. That capability simply doesn't exist at this stage."

- USAF Col. Michael Bodenheimer of NORAD, Doomsday Asteroid, TLC 6/29/98

"If today we were to discover an asteroid, about all we could do is try and launch a nuclear warhead on currently existing launch technology. We have no operational capability to deal with an incoming object at this time. If you're assuming that, if there's an incoming object, somebody's going to get a call and say, 'Don't worry, we'll take care of it,' you're assuming that that somebody is in the government, and there's nobody to answer the phone."

- Joan Johnson Freese, Space Policy Analyst, ABC 7/8/98

"The most likely warning we would have for the impact of an asteroid is just the same as the warning the dinosaurs had - ZERO!"

- Access Hollywood, ABC 5/2/98

"If a comet should appear from behind the Sun, we might only have a one or two year warning."

- Carolyn Shoemaker, News Hour, PBS 7/23/94

"The thing about the Shoemakers is they are one of the three or four little groups of astronomers who more or less on their own are finding these near-Earth asteroids. But we need a significant program, this is a serious issue."

- Carl Sagan, Nightline, ABC 7/23/94

"Earth has a better chance of a fatal collision in orbit than you do on the highway. Swarms of unidentified asteroids are lurking throughout the solar system. The most likely warning is zero. There are more people working in your average McDonalds than there are astronomers patroling the heavens."

- Target Earth, ABC 7/8/98

Today two programs in the United States watch for asteroids: Spacewatch, in Arizona, and Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking (NEAT) in Maui. These telescopes cover less than 10 percent of the sky each month.

"In about an hour and a half we take three pictures of the sky, each about as big as my finger held out at arm's length, over six or seven hours we might cover an area of sky about as big as my whole hand. It's interesting to think of how little area we actually cover of the sky compared to the whole sky that's up there, and yet we're able still to find many hundreds of asteroids each night."

- astronomer at Spacewatch, Toutatis, PBS 12/1/98

"Only a few astronomers are engaged in the search for potentially threatening comets and asteroids, in fact the total number of people working on this problem is less than the staff of one McDonalds."

- Dr. David Morrison, NOVA Doomsday Asteroid, PBS 10/31/95

"There are potentially thousands to millions of these Earth crossing asteroids that are ready to shove in the right direction to collide with our Earth, and they're going to, there is no question."

- Dr. James Garvin, Goddard Spaceflight Ctr, Practical Guide to the Universe TLC 2/95

"In the last 20 years we have identified 180 impact craters on Earth. If you could strip away Earth's jungles and oceans, scientists believe we would find another 2000 craters."

- Mark Mitchell, Fire In The Sky, TBS 3/23/97