Asteroid Detection Blind Spot Highlights Need for Upgraded Technology

A recent close encounter with an asteroid highlights a blind spot in our ability to predict those that could cause damage. NASA has prioritized detecting larger asteroids, but smaller ones in the 5-50 meter range are difficult to detect until they come closer to Earth. This poses a problem in efforts to prepare for an asteroid impact on a populated area. Current capabilities only allow for detection days prior to impact, and relying on statistical probabilities is considered an unnecessary risk.

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To address this issue, NASA is developing the $1.2 billion NEO Surveyor telescope, which will launch nearly a million miles from Earth and surveil a wide field of asteroids. This new telescope will significantly improve NASA’s ability to detect asteroids, allowing them to meet the goal assigned by Congress in 2005 to detect 90% of the total expected amount of asteroids larger than 140 meters.

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The importance of asteroid detection was further emphasized by last year’s successful demonstration of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which confirmed a method of planetary defense. NEO Surveyor is crucial in protecting the Earth, and its 2023 budget should not be reduced or delayed for higher-priority missions.

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