The B612 Foundation believes we should find threatening asteroids before they find us. Today’s meteor explosion over Chelyabinsk is a wake-up call that the Earth orbits the Sun in a shooting gallery of asteroids, and that these asteroids sometimes hit the Earth. Later today, a separate and larger asteroid, 2012 DA14, narrowly missed the Earth passing beneath the orbits of our communications satellites. We have the technology to deflect asteroids, but we cannot do anything about the objects we don’t know exist. To date, less than 1% of asteroids larger than the one that leveled Tunguska in 1908 have been tracked. The B612 Foundation Sentinel Space Telescope, to be launched in 2018, will provide a comprehensive map of the locations and trajectories of threatening asteroids and will give humanity the decades of warning needed to prevent asteroid impacts with existing technology. By the end of its planned lifetime, Sentinel will have discovered well over 90% of the asteroids that could destroy entire regions of Earth on impact (those larger than 350ft in diameter) and more than 50% of the currently unknown DA14-like near-Earth asteroids.
The B612 Foundation has undertaken this Sentinel project as a non-governmental initiative, somewhat akin to a growing number of private space ventures originated in the past few years. The foundation, however, is not undertaking this project for profit; we are a non-profit corporation. Our motivation is strictly to ensure the survival of life on Earth – all of it. And while NASA is cooperating with us by providing certain communication and analytic services, we are excited, as a private venture, to welcome the participation of all the crew of Spaceship Earth in this great endeavor.
Does the crew of Spaceship Earth raise our awareness and accept responsibility for our voyage into the future? Or do we sit back as passengers, comfortably assuming that there must be a captain and crew doing this job on our behalf?
The B612 Sentinel mission is testament to our belief that we, together, are responsible for the future of life on our small planet; we invite you to join us in addressing this cosmic challenge.
B612′s co-founder and Chair Emeritus Rusty Schweickart has an important op-ed posted today in The Guardian. Please take a moment to read his thoughts, too.