Space News and Facts Newsletter #55
May 29, 2022 - June 4, 2022
NASA's "Near-Earth Object Surveyor" space telescope (NEO Surveyor) is planned to be sent into space in early 2026. It is currently in its "preliminary design" phase. It will be a single 50 cm (20 inches) infrared telescope to be placed at Lagrange Point 1.
NEOs are considered to be those that come within 48 million kilometres (30 million miles) of Earth.
Lagrange Points are gravitationally stable positions in space where the gravitational pull from the Sun and Earth hold objects in a stable orbit. (FYI: The James Webb Space Telescope is at Lagrange Point 2.)
The NEO Surveyor will scan the space around Earth for objects larger than 140 meters (460 feet). Specifically, it will be looking for asteroids and comets*. Objects that size are considered to be able to cause serious damage if they impact Earth.
* Just as a point of interest, NASA's own web pages sometimes call the NEO Surveyor the "Near-Earth Asteroid Surveyor".
The NEO Surveyor will be a part of NASA's larger Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), which I wrote about in issue #47 of my newsletter. (See Link below.) Mentioned there is NASA’s "DART" (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission to test asteroid deflection; it was launched last November 24, 2021.
Also falling under the purview of the PDCO is NASA's "Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System" (aka "ATLAS"), comprising four telescopes situated at four different locations on Earth. In fact, the fourth telescope, located in South Africa, was just brought online in February 2022. These telescopes are actually operated by the University of Hawaii. Two are located in Hawaii, one in Chile, and the last, as mentioned, in South Africa.
NASA knows about 700 NEO asteroids and 66 comets right now. None pose a risk for Earth.
NASA's general discussion of the NEO Surveyor Mission ...
Moon dust collected by the Apollo 11 astronauts in 1969 is up for sale. But first, you should know that it was digested by cockroaches!