Professor Karlene Roberts has never donned a spacesuit nor orbited around the planet, but the spirited organizational behavior expert at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business was tapped to help a committee of astronauts, diplomats, and legal experts find ways to mitigate the impact of an asteroid hitting Earth.
After two years of work, Roberts will join that committee -- the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) Committee on Near Earth Objects (NEO) -- in presenting its findings, “Asteroid Threats: A Call for Global Response,” at a press conference, September 25, 2008, 10 a.m., at the Google Foundation, 345 Spear St., 2nd Floor, San Francisco. A full report will be presented to the United Nations in early 2009. The press conference follows the committee’s weeklong workshop in San Francisco. Over the past two years, the group conducted similar workshops in France, Romania and Costa Rica.
The NEO Committee, chaired by Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart, was formed to work with world leaders and organizations on preparations to protect the planet from near earth object impacts. The committee invited Prof. Roberts to share her expertise in risk management and organizational behavior. Roberts studies and advises organizations and systems in which errors can have catastrophic consequences, such as wildfire response, air control towers, nuclear submarines, and the medical industry.
“This is not an astronomy problem. It is a financial problem, an accounting problem, an international problem, an organizational problem, a political problem, and a problem that needs to be solved by public and private enterprise coming together to solve it,” says Roberts. Asteroids are often referred to as space rocks but consider their potentially enormous danger. In an Atlantic Monthly article, June 2008, journalist Gregg Easterbrook wrote, “astronomers are nervously tracking 99942 Apophis, an asteroid with a slight chance of striking Earth in April 2036 … it could hit with about 60,000 times the force of the Hiroshima bomb – enough to destroy an area the size of France.”
The committee includes chair and Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart; NASA astronauts Thomas Jones, Edward Lu and Franklin Chang-Diaz; and four international space explorers.
The Association of Space Explorers (ASE) is an international nonprofit professional and educational organization of over 320 individuals from 373 nations who have flown in space.
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