WASHINGTON (NAS PR) — The likelihood of a large asteroid hitting Earth in any given year, or even over one’s lifetime, is very small. However, the consequences of such a strike would be great. Detecting near-Earth objects (NEOs), determining their orbits, and estimating their mass is critical knowledge necessary to quantify their destructive potential.
A new report titled, Finding Hazardous Asteroids Using Infrared and Visible Wavelength Telescopes , from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine analyzes the advantages and disadvantages of telescope capabilities in detecting NEOs and says that space-based infrared NEO survey telescopes are more effective than visible wavelength telescopes, provide diameter information that visible wavelength telescopes cannot provide, and do not cost significantly more than in-space visible wavelength telescopes.
The report also says that if NASA develops a space-based infrared NEO survey telescope, it should also continue to fund both short- and long-term ground-based observations to refine estimates of the orbits and physical properties of NEOs, which helps to assess the risk they might pose to Earth.
Editor’s Note:As the Planetary Defense Conference gets underway in Flagstaff, Ariz., NASA reports progress on a sensor designed to detect asteroids and comets.
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — An infrared sensor that could improve NASA’s future detecting and tracking of asteroids and comets has passed a critical design test.
The test assessed performance of the Near Earth Object Camera (NEOCam) in an environment that mimicked the temperatures and pressures of deep space. NEOCam is the cornerstone instrument for a proposed new space-based asteroid-hunting telescope. Details of the sensor’s design and capabilities are published in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Optical Engineering.
SANTA MONICA, CALIF. (DSI PR) — Deep Space Industries announced today that it will send a fleet of asteroid-prospecting spacecraft out into the solar system to hunt for resources to accelerate space development to benefit Earth. These “FireFly” spacecraft utilize low-cost cubesat components and get discounted delivery to space by ride-sharing on the launch of larger communications satellites. (more…)
Former Astrobotic Technology President David Gump has resurfaced with a new company, Deep Space Industries, which will announce the “world’s first fleet of commercial asteroid-prospecting spacecraft” during a press conference at the Santa Monica Museum of Flying on Tuesday, Jan. 22.
Deep Space Industries is the second asteroid mining company to make a public announcement in the past year. Planetary Resources — founded by Peter Diamandis and Eric Anderson — is aiming for the same market.
Roscosmos held a meeting last week during officials reviewed a plan for meeting threats to Russia from both near Earth objects (NEOs) and space debris. One of the key recommendations was the establishment of a new agency to oversee the effort:
“Proposed the creation of a single (national) Monitoring Space Administration (SMC) to integrate information from the space control system (SKKP) Russian Defense Ministry and a set of specialized tools to detect and monitor hazardous space objects operated by industry organizations (Roscosmos, Russia Ministry of Industry) and the Russian Academy of Sciences.”
A Roscosmos press release that outlines the recommendations is reproduced below via Google Translate.
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA, September 19, 2012 (B612 PR) – The world’s first privately funded deep space mission – SENTINEL – received major support this week from prominent members of the business and financial community who joined the B612 Foundation’s Founding Circle. Founding Circle Members not only contribute substantial funding to the mission, but also pledge continued support in multiple areas of finance, technology and science.
Sentinel is a space-based infrared (IR) survey mission to discover and catalog 90 percent of the asteroids larger than 140 meters in Earth’s region of the solar system. The mission should also discover a significant number of smaller asteroids down to a diameter of 30 meters. Sentinel will be launched into a Venus-like orbit about the sun which significantly improves the efficiency of asteroid discovery during its 5.5 year mission.
The B-612 Foundation is set to unveil plans for its privately-funded asteroid hunting orbital telescope on Thursday at noon EDT (9 a.m. PDT; 1600 GMT) during a press conference in San Francisco.
Bill Nye the Science Guy provided some early intel on the project for about 40 attendees at the monthly LA Space Salon on Wednesday. Nye, who is scheduled to fly up to San Francisco for the press conference on Thursday morning, described the plan as follows:
The foundation will place an infrared telescope (originally called Sentinel but since renamed) into space at approximately the orbit of Venus (.7 AU). It will look out at the solar system with the sun at its back. An infrared instrument is being used because asteroids reflect well in this spectrum. It is believed that there are as many as 100,000 Earth-crossing asteroids.
Funding for the telescope is coming from investors in Silicon Valley. Nye mentioned that officials had met with Elon Musk of SpaceX, although he wasn’t clear on whether the company had agreed to launch the telescope.
UPDATE: The telescope is indeed called SENTINEL and plans call for launching it on a SpaceX Falcon 9.
B612 FOUNDATION TO ANNOUNCE FIRST PRIVATELY FUNDED DEEP SPACE MISSION
Who: The B612 Foundation
What: Press Conference to Launch the B612 Foundation and Sentinel Space Telescope Mission-the first privately funded deep space mission.
When: Thursday, June 28, 2012 — 8:30 AM – 11:00 AM (PT)
Where: Morrison Planetarium, California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco, CA, in Golden Gate Park. (Pay Parking in CA Academy Garage)
Announcement: On June 28, 2012, the B612 Foundation will announce its plans to build, operate and launch the world’s first privately funded deep space mission–a space telescope to be placed in orbit around the Sun. We will create the first comprehensive dynamic map of our inner solar system showing the current and future locations and trajectories of Earth-crossing asteroids, paving the way to protect the Earth from future impacts and opening up the Solar System to future exploration.
Speakers at the June 28 Press Conference:
Ed Lu, Chairman & CEO,former Space Shuttle/ISS/Soyuz Astronaut
Rusty Schweickart, Chairman Emeritus,Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 9
Scott Hubbard, Project Architect,Stanford University, former Dir., NASA Ames
Harold Reitsema, Mission Director,former Dir. Science Mission Dev., Ball Aerospace
The B612 Foundation (www.b612foundation.org) aims to build, launch, and operate the world’s first privately funded deep space telescope mission to create the first comprehensive dynamic map of our inner solar system, identifying the current and future locations and trajectories of Earth crossing asteroids. Mapping the great unknown of the inner solar system is the first step to opening up this next frontier. The B612 Foundation believes that humanity can harness the power of science and technology to protect the future of civilization on this planet, while extending our reach into the solar system.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Observations from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) have led to the best assessment yet of our solar system’s population of potentially hazardous asteroids. The results reveal new information about their total numbers, origins and the possible dangers they may pose.
Potentially hazardous asteroids, or PHAs, are a subset of the larger group of near-Earth asteroids. The PHAs have the closest orbits to Earth’s, coming within five million miles (about eight million kilometers) and they are big enough to survive passing through Earth’s atmosphere and cause damage on a regional, or greater, scale.
The new results come from the asteroid-hunting portion of the WISE mission, called NEOWISE. The project sampled 107 PHAs to make predictions about the entire population as a whole. Findings indicate there are roughly 4,700 PHAs, plus or minus 1,500, with diameters larger than 330 feet (about 100 meters). So far, an estimated 20 to 30 percent of these objects have been found.
DLR PR — It is not entirely clear when exactly the last major asteroid impact on Earth occurred. But there are plenty of examples of impact craters, such as the Nördlinger Ries in Bavaria. That there will be other collisions in the future is something of which Alan Harris, asteroid researcher at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), is certain. Over the next three and a half years, he will be heading the NEOShield (Near Earth Object Shield) international collaboration, established in January 2012. In total, 13 partners from research institutions and industry will jointly investigate the prevention of impacts by asteroids and comets. The investigations will include the impact of a space probe with the asteroids to deflect them from their threatening courses. The European Union is supporting the project with four million Euros. The partners are contributing another 1.8 million Euros.
SWF PR — A workshop has brought together leading representatives from space agencies and international experts to discuss key issues related to global response and cooperation in the event of a Near Earth Object (NEO) impact threat to Earth.
The gathering of specialists took place August 25-26 in Pasadena, California. The meeting was co-organized and co-sponsored by Action Team-14, part of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS) Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, Secure World Foundation (SWF), and the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) that represents over 350 individuals from 35 nations who have flown in space.
The supporting agency host of the meeting was the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Near Earth Object Observations Program Office.
This recent workshop is a follow-up to previous meetings that took place last year in Mexico City to discuss a NEO Information, Analysis, and Warning Network (IAWN) and in Darmstadt, Germany to confer about a NEO Mission Planning and Operations Group, or MPOG, to plan, organize, and conduct any necessary missions to threatening asteroids.
NASA PR — NASA will launch a spacecraft to an asteroid in 2016 and use a robotic arm to pluck samples that could better explain our solar system’s formation and how life began. The mission, called Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, will be the first U.S. mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth.
“This is a critical step in meeting the objectives outlined by President Obama to extend our reach beyond low-Earth orbit and explore into deep space,” said NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. “It’s robotic missions like these that will pave the way for future human space missions to an asteroid and other deep space destinations.”
NASA selected OSIRIS-REx after reviewing three concept study reports for new scientific missions, which also included a sample return mission from the far side of the Moon and a mission to the surface of Venus.