What's the Latest Development?
On Tuesday (June 18), NASA announced the start of the Asteroid Grand Challenge, an initiative that will culminate in the tracking and monitoring of any and every asteroid large enough to do damage to the Earth. That includes not only the really big ones -- 95 percent of which have already been found -- but the relatively small ones, like that which landed near the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in February. As with its other Grand Challenges -- which involve space travel and colonization, among other large subjects -- the agency is open to suggestions from everyone, including citizen scientists. A Request for Information has been posted on the NASA Web site; those interested have until July 18 to submit proposals.
What's the Big Idea?
The Chelyabinsk incident was a sober reminder of the vulnerability of Earth and its citizens to flying rocks in space. In addition to locating and categorizing asteroids, the Grand Challenge will entertain any ideas for deflecting them. Meanwhile, NASA still wants to try to grab one and bring it into near-Earth orbit, as well as send astronauts on asteroid missions. Naturally, all this activity will come at great cost: The agency is asking the government for $17.7 billion for fiscal year 2014, of which $105 million will go towards asteroid-related efforts.
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