NASA and astronomers around the world have been tracking asteroids for decades now. Though asteroids seem to be constantly be giving the Earth a close miss, no ‘doomsday’ asteroids have yet been found. That doesn’t mean they aren’t out there, though, hurdling toward Earth with the potential to end life as we know it.
With that in mind, NASA this week issued a “Grand Challenge” to find all asteroids that could potentially threaten human existence and develop the means to deal with them. The challenge was issued at an asteroid initiative industry and partner day at NASA Headquarters.
“NASA already is working to find asteroids that might be a threat to our planet, and while we have found 95 percent of the large asteroids near the Earth’s orbit, we need to find all those that might be a threat to Earth,” said Lori Garver deputy administrator at NASA. “This Grand Challenge is focused on detecting and characterizing asteroids and learning how to deal with potential threats. We will also harness public engagement, open innovation and citizen science to help solve this global problem.”
As part of the challenge, NASA is now soliciting ideas on how to accomplish the goal from private industry and other potential partners. The ultimate goal would be to locate, redirect, and explore an asteroid. The agency is also asking for plans to deal with potential asteroid threats.
NASA’s Grand Challenges are what they call “ambitious” projects with a large scale that will need significant science and technology breakthroughs to accomplish. The Obama administration has also promoted NASA’s challenges as a part of its Strategy for American Innovation.
“I applaud NASA for issuing this Grand Challenge because finding asteroid threats, and having a plan for dealing with them, needs to be an all-hands-on-deck effort,” said Tom Kalil, deputy director for technology and innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “The efforts of private-sector partners and our citizen scientists will augment the work NASA already is doing to improve near-Earth object detection capabilities.”