NASA has secured funding for a reworked mission that will focus on Near-Earth Objects. For the 2020 fiscal year, NASA has received a minibus spending bill that provides $22.63 billion in funding. Out of these funds, a sum of $35.6 million will be spent on the start of the Near-Earth Object Surveillance mission.
The mission will involve a small space telescope that will carry an advanced infrared camera. With the help of the camera, NASA researchers hope to track down and identify any NEOs that could pose a significant risk for our planet.
Necessary funding will come from the planetary science funding line of the agency. A report has accompanied the bill, but neither document offers details about the planetary defense programs operated by the agency.
These programs include the use of ground-based telescope observations and the upcoming Double Asteroid Redirection mission that should take place in a few years.
A New NASA Mission Will Improve The Tracking Of NEOs
According to official documents, NASA asked for $150 million in planetary defense funds in the original budget proposal, but the document did not feature specific funding mentions.
It appears that the goal is entirely new since NASA decided to propose the new mission in September 2019. The mission was presented as a directed initiative that will be coordinated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory instead of the classic Discovery program.
The redesigned mission will replace NEOCam, a concept mission that was among the finalists in the most recent stage of the Discovery program. Funding was provided for the development and manufacturing of infrared detectors.
If everything goes according to plan NASA researchers will have the ability to detect and identify all NEOs with a diameter that is bigger or equal to 140 meters. Rocks of this size are large enough to cause significant havoc if they crash into a populated area. The mission will be launched in 2025.