A Survey for Hazardous Asteroids

Richard P. Binzel, Donald K. Yeomans and Timothy D. Swindle | SpaceNews
Monday, September 24, 2018

Commentary: A space-based survey, not luck, must be our plan against hazardous asteroids.

"Luck is not a plan. Yet up to now Congressional appropriators and senior NASA officials are mostly relying on luck to keep us safe from catastrophic fatalities resulting from the surprise impact of an unseen asteroid," EAPS Professor Richard Binzel and colleagues say in SpaceNews. Given the potential unknown threat, they argue for full funding of the proposed asteroid survey mission Near-Earth Object Camera (NEOCam) for launch in 2024, to help belatedly fulfill the George E. Brown Survey Act of 2005, which mandates NASA to achieve by the year 2020 specific levels of search completeness for discovering, cataloging, and characterizing asteroids whose impacts could devastate major population centers. Additionally, Pew Research Center and Bloomberg surveys report Americans' support for monitoring asteroids/objects that could hit Earth.

This commentary was published online in SpaceNews. Read the print article here.


Richard P. Binzel is a professor of planetary science in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the inventor of the Torino Scale for characterizing the hazard of newly discovered asteroids.

Donald K. Yeomans is a retired senior research scientist from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and former manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program office.

Timothy D. Swindle is the director of the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and chair of NASA’s Small Body Assessment Group which has issued repeated findings in support of space-based surveys for planetary defense.


Each author declares no affiliation with NEOCam.

For more information about asteroids and near-Earth objects: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/asteroidwatch

Story Image: The NEOCam sensor (right) is the lynchpin for the proposed Near Earth Object Camera, or NEOCam, space mission (left). NEOCam is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NEOCam's partners include the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC) of the California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena, California; the Space Dynamics Laboratory, in Logan, Utah; Ball Aerospace of Boulder, Colorado; and Teledyne Imaging Sensors of Thousand Oaks, California. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Teledyne)