This area will cover relevant news of the threat to the planet from Near Earth Objects (NEOs) including concepts and designs for mitigation. All opinions are those of the author.

07 April 2008

U.S. Department of Defense Funding of Asteroid Detection

Article on DoD involvement on asteroid detection...selections from the article...

Kirkland AFB, NM recently gave the University of Hawaii of Honolulu, Hawaii a modified contract for $8 million for the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (PanSTARRS) multi-year program. The initial effort to develop and deploy a telescope data management system was awarded via a Grant to the University of Hawaii (considered a Minority Institute) and “as the various phases progressed, the Air Force determined that a Cooperative Agreement would be the more appropriate instrument as now we would be substantially involved.” At this time all $8 million has been committed (FA9451-06-2-0338, P00002).

PanSTARRS will address numerous science applications ranging from the structure of the Solar System to the properties of the Universe of the largest scales. It will be able to detect and catalog large numbers of earth-orbit crossing asteroids, or near earth objects (NEO) that present a potential threat to mankind. That last component to the mission is especially intriguing, as there is a long history of partial efforts in this direction within the US and elsewhere. So, where does this award fit in?

In many ways, it appears to be a replacement of existing efforts that have faltered, including GEODSS and NEAT. Kirtland AFB replied to DID:

“GEODSS is not involved in NEO (Near-Earth Object) work. Although “Planetary Defense” was an AF mission at one point, or at least showed up in Mission Needs statements, that was removed some time ago. At one point NEAT was located on one of the GEODSS telescopes on Maui. Because it interfered with the normal GEODSS mission, and because NEO disappeared from the AF mission, AFSPC paid AFRL to modify the 1.2-meter telescope to accommodate NEAT at prime focus. The NEAT camera was then moved to the 1.2 at AMOS.

Although the NEAT (Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking) program used the 1.2-meter telescope for a number of years, the NEAT camera was removed from the mount over a year ago and is being sent back to JPL. JPL and NASA were not paying customers for this program, the O&M was supplied by AFRL/RDSM using CA funding. When notified that AFRL funding was no longer available for support of NEAT, JPL responded that they did not have funding either. That’s when the NEAT program began to shut down. NEAT still has another camera at Palomar. At this point in time, GEODSS does not support the NEO mission, and the NEAT camera is no longer used on Maui.

"$8M for Astronomy & Asteroid Assessment"
06 April 2008

Link: Article

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