Earth will soon lose a key tool in the fight to spot potentially hazardous asteroids — and NASA has decided to fund a custom-built replacement. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Earth will soon lose a key tool in the fight to spot potentially hazardous asteroids — and NASA has decided to fund a custom-built replacement.
NASA wants to build a space telescope to survey the sky in infrared light, a much-needed boost in its program to identify and track asteroids in Earth’s immediate neighbourhood. These activities are the cornerstone of planetary defence, and NASA’s Science Mission Directorate has created a separate bucket in the budget, worth £84 million ($150 million) in the current fiscal year, for planetary defence, the agency announced on 23 September 2019.
That budget line is intended to increase flexibility and responsiveness in planetary defence, Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, said during a meeting of the Planetary Science Advisory Committee held in Washington D.C., United States, recently. “The goal is not to do everything for eternity,” he said. “The goal is to do the right things as they pop up.”
For now, the right thing, Zurbuchen said, is to build a new space telescope capable ...