Astronaut Insists The NEOCam Telescope Is Critical If NASA Is To Protect The World From ‘Killer’ Asteroids

Retired astronaut Russell “Rusty” Schweickart, who was involved in the Skylab and Apollo 9 missions, has stated that if NASA is to protect the Earth from what he called “city killer” asteroids, it is imperative that the agency launches the Near-Earth Object Camera (NEOCam) telescope.

According to Business Insider, Schweickart has said that there is really no excuse for NASA not to employ this life-saving tool to protect the world from asteroids, stating, “It’s a critical discovery telescope to protect life on Earth, and it’s ready to go.”

Both NASA and the American government are already well aware of the many risks posed from asteroids, and back in 2005, Congress considered it a top priority, telling NASA that one of their key missions should be to discover and keep track of 90 percent of asteroids that were 460 feet in length and over. The deadline for this goal is perilously close already as Congress has said that it must be completed by the year 2020.

Unfortunately, telescopes here on Earth have tracked less than one-third of the Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) in space, and there are now estimated to be tens of thousands of NEOs that could easily destroy cities on Earth. And according to a 2018 White House report, if we keep going on the path we are presently on, only half of the asteroids in space will have been detected by 2033, which makes NASA’s mission extremely critical if Earth is to be protected from asteroids.

The creators of the NEOCam have already suggested several times that NASA needs to launch this telescope into space, with the telescope receiving millions of dollars in funding for this goal, but NASA has stated that they still have not received the necessary and full funding for it.

Schweickart is adamant that this telescope is absolutely necessary and that the Earth will continue to be at risk from killer asteroids unless NASA launches it.

“For God’s sake, fund it as a mainline program. Don’t put it in yet another competition with science. This is a public safety program. NASA has a responsibility to do it, and it’s not happening. It needs to be put into the NASA budget both by NASA and by the Congress.”

Mark Sykes, a scientist who works with the NEOCam team, has stated that ground-based telescopes don’t work nearly as well as this telescope as ground-based ones need light to detect asteroids.

“You can’t see asteroids near the sun. You’re blinded by the sky. Right now we have to wait until those pop out in front of us. If an asteroid has a dark surface, it’s going to be very hard to see.”

By launching the NEOCam into space, Sykes noted, “You’re not blinded by the sky,” and that this telescope is the best method for protecting Earth from catastrophic asteroid strikes.

With so many giant asteroids that have yet to be tracked, it would seem clear that launching the NEOCam telescope into space should be one of NASA’s top goals if the Earth is to be adequately protected from NEOs.