Stanford professor oversees development of asteroid early-detection system
The Sentinel Space Telescope will map the approximately half million large asteroids that populate the inner solar system. The observations could be used to identify threats decades in advance of an impending collision.
A large asteroid colliding with Earth may seem like a science fiction scenario, but there's reason to take it seriously. Hundreds of thousands of these bodies cross Earth's orbit – and the consequences of a direct hit by even one could be devastating.
But a new telescope, whose development is being overseen by Stanford Professor Scott Hubbard, promises to provide an early-detection system that could predict a devastating impact.
"We should be able to establish orbits well enough that we can predict where the asteroids will be in 50 to 100 years," said Hubbard, an aeronautics and astronautics professor.
The mission to launch the telescope was announced Thursday in San Francisco at the California Academy of Sciences by the nonprofit foundation funding it. It was hailed as the first privately funded deep space mission.
With NASA support, the B612 Foundation will send the infrared telescope, called Sentinel, into orbit around the sun, where it will map the swarms of large asteroids that populate the inner solar system. The telescope is expected to be ready for launch on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in five to six years.