Q. Are there educational opportunities in conjunction with Sentinel?
Sentinel will discover hundreds of new asteroid discoveries each day, which will provide the possibility for citizen science as well as student involvement. The B612 Foundation is exploring partnerships with organizations like the California Academy of Sciences and the Planetary Society to provide opportunities for students to play a role in the mission.
Thinking bigger picture, one lesson we hope that kids will be able to draw from Sentinel is that individuals and small private organizations can make a difference in the world. Through the power of science and technology, humanity must eventually be able to change the evolution of the solar system. The Sentinel mission may very well find an asteroid on a collision course with Earth (in fact it has a roughly 20 percent chance). It is our hope that the people of the world will then unite in mounting a mission to alter the course of that asteroid to prevent this future impact. We hope that that eventuality will be a source of inspiration to budding young scientists, engineers, and dreamers worldwide.
Q. Why is it important to conduct the Sentinel Mission in the private sector?
Private organizations can now carry out awe-inspiring and audacious projects that previously only governments could accomplish – and at lower cost. We are conducting Sentinel in the private sector because we can! Because of technological advances in infrared sensors, cryo-coolers, on-board computation, and now the availability of low-cost private rockets, we can now harness the power of science, technology, and our own ingenuity to change the evolution of our Solar System.
Q. Are there precedents for privately funding and conducting these types of missions in the private sector?
While this is the first private interplanetary mission, there have been many privately funded and operated low Earth orbiting communications and Earth observing spacecraft. In addition, many large ground based telescopes have been privately funded.
Q. How is NASA involved?
Through a NASA Space Act Agreement,signed with the B612 Foundation on June 19, 2012, NASA will support the B612 Foundation Sentinel Mission in three critical areas:
- Use of NASA’s Deep Space Network for Communications, Navigation, and Tracking
- Asteroid orbit calculation and threat assessment
- NASA experts to support Sentinel Review Team
NASA also plans to appoint an independent science team to analyze the data provided by Sentinel and will conduct a comprehensive hazard analysis, making orbit determinations and threat assessments.
Q. When will you launch and begin operating Sentinel and how long will it take to get the data back to Earth?
The Sentinel Space Telescope will take about four years to build and test. It is scheduled to launch in 2017-18, aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. We will receive data almost immediately, even before Sentinel has entered its final orbit around the Sun.
Q. How far along is the B612 Foundation in developing the Sentinel Mission?
We have made substantial progress to date:
The B612 Foundation has assembled a technical and scientific leadership team for the Sentinel Mission, which is among the most experienced in the world.
- The preliminary spacecraft and mission designs are complete.
- We have a firm fixed-price proposal from by Ball Aerospace for the Sentinel IR Space Telescope. The experienced Ball contractor team previously built the Kepler Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope, Deep Impact Mission, and Hubble Space Telescope instrumentation.
- B612 signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA in June 2012, under which NASA will provide communications, tracking, and technical support for the Sentinel Mission
- Sentinel’s Mission Strategy has been endorsed by the National Research Council in its report on asteroid hazards, and also from the NASA Advisory Council.
Q. How long will it take to complete the Sentinel Map of the inner solar system? How often does this survey need to be repeated?
In 6.5 years after launch, Sentinel will discover and track half a million Near Earth Asteroids, including 90% of asteroids larger than 140 meters in diameter (i.e. those that should they hit Earth would have an impact energy of greater than 100 Megatons). This map is accurate enough to project asteroid positions 100 years into the future.
Q. Why are we mapping the skies when there are so many problems right here on Earth?
The Earth at some level really is a spaceship moving around the Sun, and the people of Earth are its crew. The B612 Foundation believes that it is important to think about the long term: what our place is in the universe, where we as a species are going, and how we protect our spaceship Earth. We think it is worthwhile for some of us to work on issues that affect humanity over the long term, over the next 100 years or more. And where we must go over the long term is space, first our inner solar system, and then eventually further. The first step in enabling that future is to create a map of the inner solar system. It will help guide us as we expand outwards, and help protect the future of humanity on this planet.