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Asteroid Hunting Spacecraft NEOWISE Is Back In Business

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NEOWISE imageForget diamonds — asteroids are the hottest rocks out there. And unlike most objects, celestial or otherwise, asteroids have a particularly compelling dichotomy. On the one hand, they’re mineable and they provide a wealth of resources that could benefit us on Earth, as well as catalyze space exploration. On the other hand, they present for some dodgy spacecraft flying conditions, obliterated the dinosaurs, and have wreaked havoc in Russia. Along with a slew of movies about asteroid apocalypses, these events have galvanized scientists and governments into action to detect (and hopefully prevent) threats posed by asteroids. Regardless of whether you think asteroids are cool or terrifying, or a bit of both, we have to be able to find them in order to do anything else with or about them. NASA has put out a call to help it find asteroids, but now the single best asteroid hunter, NEOWISE, is back in business.

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UN Approves Asteroid Protection Guidelines And Japan Tests An Asteroid-Blasting Space Cannon

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asteroid

Between huge meteor chunks being recovered from a Russian lake, planned asteroid mining, and space rocks that fly by and will circle back again, space-related news these days seems pretty focused on asteroids. In fact, asteroids are a big enough deal that even the United Nations is thinking about them — to the extent that it recently approved guidelines to protect our planet from asteroids that could do to us what they did to the dinosaurs.

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NASA Tells Congress A Lack Of Funding Could Lead To Future Asteroid Apocalypse

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Asteroid

Everywhere you look, there are similarities to be found. For instance, who’d have thought that the problem holding NASA back from identifying and tracking large near-Earth objects (NEOs) in space is the same problem keeping me from opening my line of Beer and Bacon eateries? It all comes down to Congress not footing the bill, really, but at least I don’t have Congress on my back about it.

It’s been a little over a month since the double-billed meteor strike in Russia and the fly-by of the DA14 asteroid, so Congress gathered officials from NASA, the White House, and the Air Force and asked what’s being done to squash future NEO threats. After some agreement that last month’s episodes were purely coincidental, the seriousness of such an imposing disaster guided the rest of the conversation, which could seemingly be summarized as: No money, no progress.

In 2005, Congress gave NASA the explicit directive of NEO classification, with a goal of identifying 90 percent of these Armageddon-bringers, rocks larger than 459 feet across (140 m). But NASA’s chief, Charles Bolden, had few encouraging words for the space rock-headed governing body.