Planetary Society, NSS Call for Full Funding for NEO Surveyor Asteroid Hunter

NEO Surveyor is a new mission proposal designed to discover and characterize most of the potentially hazardous asteroids that are near the Earth. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A joint-letter in Support of NEO Surveyor
National Space Society
The Planetary Society

As part of our ongoing support for the asteroid-hunting space telescope NEO Surveyor, The Planetary Society recently partnered with the National Space Society to urge Congress to reject cuts to this critical mission.

The project is facing a $130 million cut from its planned FY 2023 budget, which would seriously delay and disrupt the mission.

This letter to Congress reflects the high regard for NEO Surveyor shared by the two largest member-supported space organizations in the world.

(more…)

Report Identifies Priority Planetary Science Missions, Planetary Defense Efforts, and Strategic Investments for the Next Decade

WASHINGTON (National Academies PR) — A new decadal survey from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine identifies scientific priorities and opportunities and makes funding recommendations to maximize the advancement of planetary science, astrobiology, and planetary defense in the next 10 years.

The recommendations by the steering committee for the decadal survey draw on input from the scientific community through the advice of six panels, hundreds of white papers, invited speakers, outreach to advisory groups and professional society conferences, and work with mission-design teams.

(more…)

NASA Asteroid Tracking System Now Capable of Full Sky Search

From left to right: Sutherland ATLAS station during construction in South Africa. Credit: Willie Koorts (SAAO); Chilean engineers and astronomers installing the ATLAS telescope at El Sauce Observatory. Credit: University of Hawaii; Illustration of NASA’s DART spacecraft and the Italian Space Agency’s (ASI) LICIACube prior to impact at the Didymos binary system. Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins, APL/Steve Gribben; Illustration of the NEO Surveyor spacecraft.

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The NASA-funded Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS)—a state-of-the-art asteroid detection system operated by the University of Hawaiʻi (UH) Institute for Astronomy (IfA) for the agency’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO)—has reached a new milestone by becoming the first survey capable of searching the entire dark sky every 24 hours for near-Earth objects (NEOs) that could pose a future impact hazard to Earth. Now comprised of four telescopes, ATLAS has expanded its reach to the southern hemisphere from the two existing northern-hemisphere telescopes on Haleakalā and Maunaloa in Hawai’i to include two additional observatories in South Africa and Chile. 

(more…)

NASA’s Next-Generation Asteroid Impact Monitoring System Goes Online

This diagram shows the orbits of 2,200 potentially hazardous objects as calculated by JPL’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). Highlighted is the orbit of the double asteroid Didymos, the target of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirect Test (DART) mission. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The new system improves the capabilities of NASA JPL’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies to assess the impact risk of asteroids that can come close to our planet.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — To date, nearly 28,000 near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) have been found by survey telescopes that continually scan the night sky, adding new discoveries at a rate of about 3,000 per year. But as larger and more advanced survey telescopes turbocharge the search over the next few years, a rapid uptick in discoveries is expected. In anticipation of this increase, NASA astronomers have developed a next-generation impact monitoring algorithm called Sentry-II to better evaluate NEA impact probabilities.

(more…)

ESA Scales Up Planetary Defense Facilities

Europe’s Planetary Defenders settle into their new home. (Credit: ESA)

FRASCATI, Italy (ESA PR) — The new heart of ESA’s Planetary Defence Office was inaugurated today, heralding a new chapter in the Agency’s work to protect Earth from dangerous near-Earth objects, aka asteroids.

For years, ESA has been dedicated to opening our eyes to hazards in space, and when it came to asteroids this meant ensuring Europe had the capability to detect, track and understand what’s out there.

(more…)

NASA Spacecraft Provides Insight into Asteroid Bennu’s Future Orbit

This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu is composed of 12 PolyCam images collected on Dec. 2, 2018, by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 15 miles (24 km). (Credits: NASA/University of Arizona)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In a study released Wednesday, NASA researchers used precision-tracking data from the agency’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft to better understand movements of the potentially hazardous asteroid Bennu through the year 2300, significantly reducing uncertainties related to its future orbit, and improving scientists’ ability to determine the total impact probability and predict orbits of other asteroids.

The study, titled “Ephemeris and hazard assessment for near-Earth asteroid (101955) Bennu based on OSIRIS-REx data,” was published in the journal Icarus.

(more…)

Qorvo Provides Key Enabling Technology for Identifying, Mapping and Tracking Threats from Near-Earth Objects

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), Green Bank Telescope, and Raytheon Intelligence & Space (RI&S) are working in collaboration to improve planetary radar capabilities. With the addition of Qorvo’s Spatium power amplifier technology, the project now has the power to identify and characterize even small NEOs earlier with more precision. (Credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF, S. Dagnello)

GREENSBORO, NC (Qorvo PR) — Qorvo® (Nasdaq: QRVO), a leading provider of innovative radio frequency (RF) solutions that connect the world, today announced its Spatium® solid-state power amplifier (SSPA) technology will play a key role in a new planetary radar experiment using the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. Planetary radar is instrumental in characterizing Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) by providing precision measurement of shape, rotation, position, and an estimate of composition.

(more…)

NASA Approves Asteroid Hunting Space Telescope to Continue Development

NEO Surveyor is a new mission proposal designed to discover and characterize most of the potentially hazardous asteroids that are near the Earth. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The infrared space telescope is designed to help advance NASA’s planetary defense efforts.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA has approved the Near-Earth Object Surveyor space telescope (NEO Surveyor) to move to the next phase of mission development after a successful mission review, authorizing the mission to move forward into Preliminary Design (known as Key Decision Point-B). The infrared space telescope is designed to help advance NASA’s planetary defense efforts by expediting our ability to discover and characterize most of the potentially hazardous asteroids and comets that come within 30 million miles of Earth’s orbit, collectively known as near-earth objects, or NEOs.

(more…)

New ESA Telescope in South America to Search for Asteroids

ESA’s Test-Bed Telescope 2, located at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, looks out over the Atacama Desert at sunset. The Moon can be seen rising in the left of the image. (Credit: F. Ocaña/J. Isabel/Quasar SR)

  • ESA’s second Test-Bed Telescope has seen ‘first light’.
  • It will help spot asteroids in space that could pose a risk to Earth.
  • This telescope is the latest step towards ESA’s planned Flyeye telescope network.
  • It is hosted at the European Southern Observatory’s La Silla Observatory in Chile.

COQUIMBO REGION, Chile (ESA PR) — ESA’s second Test-Bed Telescope, hosted at the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) La Silla Observatory in Chile, has seen ‘first light’ – when a new telescope is first used to look up. 

(more…)

NASA Funds Research into Breakthrough Space Telescope for Prospecting Asteroids

Credit: Peter Gural

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts 2021 Phase II Award
Amount: $500,000

Peter Gural
Trans Astronautica Corporation
Lakeview Terrace, Calif.

There are 3 key reasons why it is vital for NASA to develop better ways to locate and characterize Near Earth Objects (NEOs).

1: NEOs are an impact hazard to the Earth.

2: Measuring NEO population distributions will unlock the answers to critical questions dealing with the formation and evolution of the solar system.

3: Most importantly, low ∆V NEOs can be targets for human exploration and resource mining.

(more…)

ISRO Opens Space Situational Awareness Center

BANGALORE, India (ISRO PR) — In view of ever-growing population of space objects and the recent trend towards mega-constellations, Space Situational Awareness (SSA) has become an integral and indispensable part of safe and sustainable space operations.

For the last few decades, ISRO has been carrying out SSA activities, mainly focused on safeguarding India’s space assets. Recognising the need for dedicated efforts to tackle the emerging challenges of operating in an exceedingly crowded and contested space domain, Directorate of Space Situational Awareness and Management (DSSAM) has been established at ISRO.

The Directorate engages in evolving improved operational mechanisms to protect Indian space assets through effective coordination amongst ISRO/DOS Centres, other space agencies and international bodies, and establishment of necessary supporting infrastructures, such as additional observation facilities for space object monitoring, and a control centre for centralized SSA activities.

(more…)

NASA Statement on NSF’s Planned Controlled Decommissioning of Arecibo Radio Telescope

The UCF-managed Arecibo Observatory in the spring of 2019. (Credit: University of Central Florida)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — On Nov. 18, NASA was informed by the National Science Foundation (NSF) that, after careful assessment and consideration, they have decided to decommission the 305m radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, which recently sustained structural damage from failed cables.

(more…)

To the Moon! U.S. Space Force’s Operational Area Just Got Much Larger

The Moon seen from the International Space Station. The image was taken by ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli during his second mission to ‘MagISStra’ on 20 March 2011. Paolo commented on the image: “Supermoon was spectacular from here!” (Credit: ESA/NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

I looked a bit more into this memorandum of understanding (MOU) that was signed earlier this week by NASA and the U.S. Space Force (USSF) to deepen cooperation between the two agencies. And there’s a really fascinating aspect to it.

“With new U.S. public and private sector operations extending into cislunar space, the reach of USSF’s sphere of interest will extend to 272,000 miles and beyond — more than a tenfold increase in range and 1,000-fold expansion in service volume,” the MOU said.

(more…)

IG Audit: NASA Planetary Program Faces Major Financial, Managerial Challenges

Dragonfly flying over the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s Planetary Science Division (PSD) faces a series of managerial, financial and personnel challenges as it prepares to conduct a series of ever more ambitious missions to the moon and planets, according to a new audit by the space agency’s Office of Inspector General (IG).

(more…)

Tiny Asteroid Buzzes by Earth – the Closest Flyby on Record

This illustration shows asteroid 2020 QG’s trajectory bending during its close approach to Earth. The asteroid is the closest known nonimpacting asteroid ever detected. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

An SUV-size space rock flew past our planet over the weekend and was detected by a NASA-funded asteroid survey as it departed.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Near Earth Asteroids, or NEAs, pass by our home planet all the time. But an SUV-size asteroid set the record this past weekend for coming closer to Earth than any other known NEA: It passed 1,830 miles (2,950 kilometers) above the southern Indian Ocean on Sunday, Aug. 16 at 12:08 a.m. EDT (Saturday, Aug. 15 at 9:08 p.m. PDT).

(more…)