Future mission will look for threatening asteroids

NEOCam telescope
The NEO Surveillance Mission’s space telescope would take advantage of technologies developed for NEOCam, the proposed spacecraft shown in this artist’s conception. (IPAC / Caltech Illustration)

The head of NASA’s science operations says the space agency intends to develop a new space-based infrared telescope to hunt down near-Earth objects — not primarily for science’s sake, but to ensure that potentially threatening space rocks are identified before they hit us.

NASA’s NEO Surveillance Mission will make use of technologies developed for a proposed telescope known as NEOCam, Thomas Zurbuchen, the agency’s associate administrator for science, said today during a meeting of NASA’s Planetary Science Advisory Committee in Washington, D.C.

NEOCam has long been considered as a candidate science mission under NASA’s Discovery Program. But today, Zurbuchen said the NEO Surveillance Mission would be recast as a planetary defense mission with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory playing the lead development role.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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