NASA wants the public’s help in figuring out how to capture an asteroid.
Scientists say studying one of the small, rocky planetoids that occasionally pass near Earth is essential to learn how to stop one that might be headed right at the planet.
NASA announced the Grand Challenge — a collaborative effort with foreign partners, the private sector, academics, and citizen scientists — this week.
“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,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver at the launch Tuesday.
NASA’s plans for protecting Earth include the capture and redirection of a 500-ton asteroid into a stable orbit, where it can be visited and studied. That plan would be implemented between 2017 and 2021.
Throughout that time, NASA will test an unmanned Orion spacecraft, in hopes of sending a manned mission to the captured asteroid aboard the craft in 2021.
“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,” said Tom Kalil, deputy director for technology and innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
NASA also released a request for information — a government procurement document — that asks industry and other potential partners to offer ideas on how NASA can locate, redirect, and explore an asteroid, as well as how to detect and plan for asteroid threats.