COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Scientists used an appearance by the NASA administrator at a conference April 29 to press him to fund additional missions that support the agency’s work in discovering and characterizing near Earth objects.
In an opening keynote at the Planetary Defense Conference here, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the agency was taking steps to identify objects that could pose an impact hazard to the Earth, but that there was more work it needed to do to achieve goals established by Congress years ago.
A provision in a 2005 NASA authorization act directed the agency to discover 90 percent of the near Earth objects at least 140 meters in diameter — enough to cause regional-scale devastation in the event of an impact — within 15 years. With a year to go, astronomers have discovered more than 8,500 such objects, but they estimate that is only about one-third of the total population.
“We’re only about a third of the way there and the law that has been passed says that NASA is required to be able to detect, track and characterize not just one third but 90 percent of them,” he said, “which means we have to use our ...