Q. What is the mission of the B612 Foundation and its Sentinel Deep Space Mission?
The B612 Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c) 3 organization dedicated to opening up the frontier of space exploration and protecting humanity from asteroid impacts. The Sentinel Mission will be the first privately funded, launched, and operated interplanetary mission – an infrared space telescope to be placed in orbit around the Sun to discover, map, and track asteroids whose orbits approach Earth and threaten humanity.
Q. Why the name “B612”?
B612 is the name of the asteroid home of the Little Prince, from the 1943 best-selling children’s novela, “Le Petit Prince,” the most famous work of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. In the book the Little Prince came to realize that “what is essential is invisible to the eye”, an axiom that holds true for humanity too as perhaps the most important challenge facing us is actually the half million Near Earth Asteroids in the sky – out of sight and out of mind of most people on Earth.
Q. Has the Mission of the B612 Foundation changed from when it was first conceived in 2002?
The overall mission of the B612 Foundation to protect the Earth from threatening asteroids has not changed, however, our strategy has changed. For more than 10 years, we worked to find the technical solutions for asteroid deflection, assuming that the necessary first step of discovering and tracking threatening asteroids would be managed by others. Deflecting asteroids is a solvable technical problem, as long as there is adequate early warning (decades of notice). However, it became clear that the job of tracking asteroids to provide early warning was not going to be accomplished by others in a timely fashion. Therefore, on June 28, 2012, the B612 Foundation announced its re-focused mission to map and monitor the asteroids of the inner solar system.
Q. How much is B612 Foundation raising to carry out the Sentinel Mission?
The B612 Foundation plans to raise $450m over 12 years (or about $37m per year) to design, build, test, insure, and launch the Sentinel Space Telescope, to build and operate the control center for the duration of the mission, to carry out analysis of the observations, and to deliver the data to the people of the world. This is substantially lower than the budget would be for a similar mission in the government sector, and comparable in cost to many other philanthropic projects, including specialized medical research facilities, museums, performing arts centers, and academic buildings.