NASA has announced a Grand Challenge focused on finding asteroids that may become a threat to the planet, and proposing solutions on how to deal with them,. The announcement was made during the Asteroid Initiative Industry & Partner Day, on June 18 held at NASA HQ by the agency’s deputy administrator, Lori Garver.
“NASA already is working to find asteroids that might be a threat to our planet, and while we have found 95 percent of the large asteroids near the Earth’s orbit, we need to find all those that might be a threat to Earth,” said Garver. “This Grand Challenge is focused on detecting and characterizing asteroids and learning how to deal with potential threats. We will also harness public engagement, open innovation and citizen science to help solve this global problem.”
The challenge consists in a multi-disciplinary collaborations and partnership with other government agencies, international partners, industry, academia, and citizen scientists. The effort complements NASA’s recently announced mission to redirect an asteroid to a stable orbit near the Moon and send humans to study it. Grand Challenges are part of President Obama’s Strategy for American Innovation to pursue ambitious goals on a national or global scale, and requires advances in innovation and breakthroughs in science and technology.
Tom Kalil, deputy director for technology and innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, praised the initiative. According to Kalil, finding and dealing with asteroid threats is an all-hands-on-deck effort but the Grand Challenge will improve near-Earth object detection capabilities.
As part of the Grand Challenge, NASA issued a request for information (RFI) soliciting industry and potential partners to think about concepts and different approaches on how to accomplish NASA’s asteroid mission. The RFI will stay open until July 18 and the responses will contribute to developing public engagement opportunities and an industry workshop in September.