A group of former NASA astronauts and senior team members want to hunt asteroids. Apparently, the thrill of big game hunting here on Earth just isn’t enough. As part a new deep space initiative, California-based non-profit B612 Foundation intends to send an infrared telescope, dubbed Sentinel, into orbit around the Sun for the purpose of mapping asteroids in Earth’s vicinity.
Established in 2002, the foundation’s mission, as one would suspect, is to raise “awareness of the potential for a catastrophic asteroid impact,” Gizmag wrote. Sentinel will mainly focus its asteroid-hunting capabilities on rocks larger than 140 meters (459 ft), while also providing data on rocks as small as 30 meters (98 ft).
“An asteroid that is 140 meters across (i.e. one that would fit comfortably inside a high school sports stadium) packs an impact energy of about 100 Megatons of TNT, which is about five times larger than all the bombs in WWII,” B612 said on its website.
The project is expected to take four years to build and test, so a realistic estimate is pegging Sentinel for a 2017-18 launch. Interestingly, Space X’s Falcon 9 rocket will be responsible for escorting B612’s telescope into the great unknown.
Once it does commence on its journey, it will take the 3,300 pound Sentinel five and a half years of mapping to gather sufficient data. The data should then provide B612 with enough information to “project the paths of asteroids for around the next 100 years or so,” Gizmag said. Most importantly, it’ll give us earthlings decades notice of any impending collisions.
Aren’t we due for one on December 21 of this year?