NASA will start developing a space-based telescope to trace the asteroids close to Earth, based on a statement by Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science.
Space Information reports that the mission will be based on a previous concept mission known as NEOCam. NASA can lead the Near-Earth Object Surveillance Mission, unlike NEOCam, which might have been a part of the NASA agency’s proposal-based, principle investigator-led Discovery Program. The mission will assist NASA to fulfill its congressional mandate to find asteroids that potentially threaten Earth.
The small telescope can observe infrared wavelengths of light, which value around $500 million and launch during or after 2025, based on the Space News report. Zurbuchen mentioned it could take ten years for the telescope to succeed in its objective, based on Space News.
Congress’s 2005 mandate commanded NASA to find 90 % of near-Earth asteroids larger than 140 meters in diameter by 2020. However, inadequate infrastructure has prevented scientists from achieving that objective. Scientists assume that there are 25,000 near-Earth objects larger than 140 meters across, yet telescopes around the world have only discovered a third of them.
There’s already a re-purposed infrared space telescope known as NEOWISE cataloging near-Earth asteroids, and in this year, the National Academies published a report supporting NASA and astronomers to build a successor, NEOCam. NASA provided early funding for the mission, particularly to research the infrared detectors that will be required for asteroid hunting, based on Space News. Although NASA isn’t moving forward with NEOCam, the research work shall be included in the new Near-Earth Object Surveillance Mission.
Mainzer, the professor of planetary sciences at the University of Arizona, stated she’s now working out the details of how she’ll be concerned with the mission.