Asteroid attacks may not be on your “radar” while your relaxing on the beach during your summer vacation but a private foundation plans to launch a deep-space infrared telescope to catalog “500,000 near-Earth asteroids” that could pose a danger our planet.
The nonprofit B612 foundation wants to send the Sentinel space telescope in orbit near Venus to map hazardous rocks headed our way to give Earth decades of notice to implement a “deflection mission” to protect the planet from a killer asteroid if the need arises.
B612 Chairman and CEO Ed Liu, a former NASA astronaut, said this week that with regard to asteroids “they have hit the Earth in the past and will do so in the future, unless we do something about it.”
So how vulnerable is Earth to a cataclysmic asteroid attack such as the one depicted in the movie Armageddon?
According to Space.com, size matters:
Fortunately, we’re probably not going to get smacked any time soon by a potential civilization-killer (anything at least 0.6 miles, or 1 kilometer, wide). Scientists think about 980 of these mountain-size asteroids are zipping through Earth’s neighborhood. We’ve already found nearly 95 percent of them, and none pose a threat to Earth in the near future, researchers say.
But the outlook isn’t so rosy for smaller objects. For example, observations by NASA’s WISE space telescope suggest that about 4,700 asteroids at least 330 feet (100 meters) wide come uncomfortably close to our planet at some point in their orbits.
So far, researchers have spotted less than 30 percent of these space rocks, which could obliterate an area the size of a state if they slammed into Earth.
If all goes well, the Sentinel space telescope mission will “spot the few remaining mountain-size space rocks and find 90 percent of the 460-footers and 50 percent of the 130-footers out there.”
The B612 Foundation takes its name from the asteroid home of the title character in The Little Prince novella. The Foundation aims to raise several hundred million dollars from around the world to send the telescope into space on its asteroid-hunting mission.
Watch this video for more information on the planned Sentinel space telescope launch:
Fox News aired this report today on the asteroid-mapping mission: