NEO Committee:

There has been a great deal of action since the last time I updated everyone on the committee, so let me try to bring everyone up to speed.

First, we have a new committee member... Sergey Avdeev.  Welcome Sergey!

Next I'll give you an update on the workshops.

Toward the end of October I mailed out the formal invitations to the list of candidate participants (Principals) who we wanted for the workshops.  I had talked, either in person or via phone, with most of them so the invitation was certainly not a surprise.  We sent out 14 invitations to Principals and 3 to "official observers", primarily from the UN.  To date I've heard back from about 80% and they are all affirmative... they are in, not only for the first, but for all four workshops!  This is a wonderful result given the very high level of the people we asked.  

Similarly we have organized a very distinguished group of briefers for the first workshop.  Obviously the first of the four workshops will be focused on bringing everyone up to a common and informed level of understanding of the NEO situation so it will be quite briefing intensive.  

Finally, Michael Simpson, President of ISU (Intnl Space U) is also organizing, with our support, a graduate level project in which the students will work through the logic flow of decisions and options that will confront the UN when a NEO appears to be threatening.  The purpose of the student project is not to make the value judgements that the Principals will have to make, but to identify the issues, the branch points, and the logic flow of the decision process.  In the first workshop either Michael (who is also a Principal) or one of the students will brief the Principals on their findings.

All in all, we have a very good set of workshop sessions laid out.. and excellent, impressive participants who will be attending and working through the issues.  It is VERY exciting.

On the funding to support the work;

We're in pretty good shape.  With some help from some friends I was able to obtain a $25K "challenge" grant from Mitch Kapor (developer of Lotus) which I then was able to match by $10K from a personal friend and $15K from the Secure World Foundation, who were recommended by the Ploughshares Fund, who had granted us $9K a year earlier.  This core funding is enough to take us through the first workshop (probably).

The Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland offered to sponsor a benefit fundraiser event for us after I gave a talk there on the asteroid issue.  The Executive Director there, Alexandra Barnett, was formerly the director of the UK NEO information center and therefore has a "natural" interest in NEOs, as do some of her Board members.  The planning for that event is going well and, when it is all over, we hope to have raised well over $100K additional funding.

The Chabot benefit will take place on Saturday, January 13, 2007 and begin with an autograph session in the mid afternoon and continue with an evening reception/cocktail party/briefing in the Chabot's Omnimax theater.  In the process we have decided to honor Carolyn Shoemaker, the widow and partner of Gene Shoemaker, who along with David Levy discovered the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet prior to its impact on Jupiter.  That event, and the work of the Shoemakers (and Carolyn was a full partner is the work) on impacts and NEOs really started much of the serious consideration of NEOs and their impacts with Earth as a major shaping influence on the development and evolution of life on Earth.  This should be a really wonderful and fun event.

Follow-on workshops..

Our second workshop, hosted by the town of Sibiu, Romania (cultural capital of Europe for 2007) is now being explored by Dorin Prunariu.  Sibiu is a small, beautiful, rennaisance town in Transylvania and (when I was there earlier this year) was anxious to host our work.  We are attempting to organize that event to be held the week before our annual Congress in Scotland.  We'll shortly know the results of Dorin's work and whether or not that will be the plan.  The third and fourth workshops are not yet scheduled, but if the Chabot raises a considerable amount of money for us we may well hold one of them in the San Francisco area.  The other I'd like to hold somewhere in Asia, but we'll have to see.  I'm still trying to get a Principal from Japan to participate.

In summary our work is going very well indeed; I'm very thankful to all of you, and especially Tom Jones and Dorin Prunariu who have been doing a good bit of work themselves.

Please let me know if there are any questions or concerns.  We are not, at this time, seeking publicity.. that will come when we have some results to show.  We are answering press enquiries and speaking about the issue(s) in public speeches, etc., but not making overt approaches to the press.  

I'll keep you informed as things develop further.