Near Earth Object Surveyor – A Quick Overview

The Near Earth Object (NEO) Surveyor, previously known as the Near-Earth Object Camera (NEOCam) and then the NEO Surveillance Mission, is a planned space-based infrared telescope. Its primary purpose is to survey the Solar System for potentially hazardous asteroids.

The NEO Surveyor spacecraft will operate from the Sun-Earth L1 (inner) Lagrange point, which allows it to see objects inside Earth’s orbit. The spacecraft’s mid-infrared detectors, which are sensitive to thermal emissions, will enable it to detect asteroids irrespective of their illumination by the Sun. The NEO Surveyor mission is a successor to the NEOWISE mission, with Amy Mainzer at the University of Arizona serving as the principal investigator for both missions.

Despite first being proposed in 2006, the NEO Surveyor concept faced challenges in securing NASA funding, which was often awarded to science missions unrelated to planetary defense. However, in 2019, the Planetary Defense Coordination Office decided to fund the mission outside NASA’s science budget due to its national security implications. On June 11, 2021, NASA authorized the NEO Surveyor mission to proceed to the preliminary design phase, with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory leading the mission’s development.

The main objective of the mission is to discover most of the potentially hazardous asteroids larger than 140 m (460 ft) over the course of its mission and to characterize their orbits. The mission’s wide and deep field of view and sensitivity will allow it to discover tens of thousands of new NEOs as small as 30 m (98 ft) in diameter. Secondary science goals include the detection and characterization of approximately one million asteroids in the asteroid belt and thousands of comets, as well as the identification of potential NEO targets for human and robotic exploration.

As of December 2022, the launch of the NEO Surveyor is expected no later than June 2028.

Source: Wikipedia

Detected NEOs as of May 2023

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