NASA asks amateur astronomers to help identify deadly asteroids

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teleUSA – It was one hell of a wake-up call for space agencies around the globe. Remember that asteroid back in February that nearly wiped out an entire Russian city? Turns out it was as much a surprise to the folks at NASA as it was to everyone else.

So when they submitted their budget to congress two months later, NASA gurus were careful to ask for a little extra cash to help fund an asteroid retrieval project designed to identify and deal with dangerous asteroids before they hit earth. The answer from the hill was a resounding “no.”

So with no money to invest in finding those potentially deadly asteroids, NASA is putting out the call to the public, asking amateur astronomers and anyone else with a telescope to take up the cause and help find space rocks that could impact the earth. They’re calling it “The Asteroid Grand Challenge.”

“You have an opportunity to submit any idea you want,’ NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot said at a press conference announcing the challenge. ‘What we want to be able to do is take the complete set of those ideas and somehow figure out a way to make the best mission that engages the most folks and brings the best ideas to the table.”

The B612 Foundation is a nonprofit group that hopes to raise enough money from the public to build a telescope designed to identify deadly asteroids.

“Of all of the natural disasters that threaten mankind, NEO impacts are the one that is absolutely predictable and that is preventable,” said B612 Mission Director Harold Reitsema.

So whether it’s someone in their backyard with a telescope, or gurus at NASA, let’s hope someone finds the next one before this happens again.