NASA has received financing for a new expedition that will look for asteroids, or Near-Earth Objects (NEOs), that could be hazardous to our home planet.
The space agency has been provided with $35.6 million for the new program, dubbed the ‘Near-Earth Object Surveillance Mission.’ The intent is to send to space a new satellite, equipped with an infrared camera, that will hunt for asteroids located close to our planet.
On December 20th, President Trump signed the ‘minibus’ expense law, which gives NASA an extra $22.6 billion. Of this, $2.7 billion will be reserved for NASA’s planetary science funding program that will be utilized to finance the new mission.
Hunting Possibly-Threatening Space Rocks
The Congress has demanded NASA to detect all NEOs, which are at least 140 meters in size, believed to be the diameter they would cause a regional or global effect if they crash into Earth. The Near-Earth Object Surveillance Mission will be managed from the University of Arizona and will be led by Amy Mainzer.
In an announcement released on the University of Arizona’s website, Ms. Mainzer described the new mission’s aim.
She said: “This mission would answer a fundamental question: Are there asteroids or comets out there that can cause harm to the Earth over the next century?”
Just earlier this year, a renown scientist predicted that it is ineluctable a massive asteroid will eventually collide with Earth, probably causing devastating chaos, unless leaders act.
Greg Leonard, a senior scientist at the NASA-financed Catalina Sky Survey (CSS), said that the possibility is ‘one hundred percent’ unless action steps are made. Even so, they did also admit that the possibilities of being killed by an asteroid are, at the moment, lower than dying after an asteroid collision with Earth.
High Possibilities of Asteroid Strike
As per NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, every year, a space rock approximately the size of a car entered our planet’s atmosphere, but normally burn away without bringing trouble.
However, the effect of a much bigger space object could be disastrous for the human species if it collides with Earth, basically changing the planet’s setting.
Talking about asteroids, Mr. Leonard said: “I also know that if we do nothing, sooner or later, there’s a one hundred percent chance that one will get us. So I feel privileged to be doing something.”
A massive asteroid strike, probably by an object a few kilometers in diameter, is theorized to have been behind the extinction event that took place in the Cretaceous-Paleogene era and wiped out all dinosaurs. The occurrence happened about 66 million years ago, and it killed approximately three-quarters of animal species on the planet.
Mr. Leonard’s comments were made after NASA admitted it only saw a potentially hazardous asteroid traveling towards our planet just a few hours after it intruded into Earth’s atmosphere. The asteroid, known as 2019 MO, burned up in the atmosphere above the Caribbean region on June 29th and was spotted by NASA about 300,000 miles from Earth.
In a report, NASA claimed this was about the ‘equivalent of spotting something the size of a gnat from a distance of 310 miles.’