The Asteroid Grand Challenge

First radar images of asteroid 1998 QE2 were obtained when the asteroid was about 3.75 million miles (6 million kilometers) from Earth. The small white dot at lower right is the moon, or satellite, orbiting asteroid 1998 QE2. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR
Asteroid 1998 QE2 (and its moon) came relatively close to the Earth on May 31, 2013, at 1:59 p.m/ Pacific (20:59 UTC). The first radar images of 1998 QE2 were obtained when the asteroid was about 3.75 million miles (6 million kilometers) away from our planet. The small white dot at lower right is a moon, or satellite, orbiting asteroid 1998 QE2. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR

NASA has announced a Grand Challenge focused on finding all asteroid threats to human populations and knowing what to do about them.

The challenge, which was announced at an asteroid initiative industry and partner day at NASA Headquarters in Washington, is a large-scale effort that will use multi-disciplinary collaborations and a variety of partnerships with other government agencies, international partners, industry, academia, and citizen scientists. It complements NASA’s recently announced mission to redirect an asteroid and send humans to study it.

“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 NASA Deputy Administrator Lori 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.”

Grand Challenges are ambitious goals on a national or global scale that capture the imagination and demand advances in innovation and breakthroughs in science and technology. They are an important element of President Obama’s Strategy for American Innovation.

One of the first deep space missions for astronauts could be to visit an asteroid. Image Credit: NASA.
One of the first deep space missions for astronauts could be to visit an asteroid. Image Credit: NASA

“I applaud NASA for issuing this Grand Challenge because finding asteroid threats, and having a plan for dealing with them, needs to be an all-hands-on-deck effort,” said Tom Kalil, deputy director for technology and innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “The efforts of private-sector partners and our citizen scientists will augment the work NASA already is doing to improve near-Earth object detection capabilities.”

NASA also released a request for information (RFI) that invites industry and potential partners to offer ideas on accomplishing NASA’s goal to locate, redirect, and explore an asteroid, as well as find and plan for asteroid threats. The RFI is open for 30 days, and responses will be used to help develop public engagement opportunities and a September industry workshop.


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