Nasa has a new Grand Challenge: save the world.
The space agency is already working with astronomers around the world to find and track potentially dangerous near-Earth asteroids.
But while it's been able to find about 95% of the large asteroids near Earth so far, it still doesn't know about the other 5%. And of those it has found, Nasa isn't sure which ones are likely to strike our planet. Which is pretty critical information, as you can imagine.
As a result Nasa has decided to get serious. It has now launched a new 'Grand Challenge' designed to find, track and evaluate all of the asteroids near to the Earth, and is calling on everyone to take part. Including you.
Announced at Nasa's headquarters in Washington, the initiative will involve partnerships with government agencies, international space programs, academics and 'citizen scientists'.
It will work with other groups, such as the European Space Agency's own recently launched NEO Coordination Centre in order to pool data - and try and find new ways to search for useful insights from it.
Meteor falling from the sky in Edmonton, Canada. Filmed about 5:30pm Thursday November 20th 2008.
Police dash cam of Meteor over Edmonton, Canada. Filmed about 5:30pm Thursday November 20th 2008
The Great Daylight 1972 Fireball en.wikipedia.org This is footage from early 70's of a meteor passing over Alberta Canada.... Just to clarify, the host is talking about a "meteorite" actually its a meteor because it didn't hit the earth's surface. Meteor = fragments that pass through the Earth's atmosphere, heated to incandescence by friction. Meteorite = Meteor that strikes the earth ...from Understanding the Earth Series www.youtube.com
Meteoor over Nederland, foto's uit groningen, 13 oktober 2009. Fotograaf Robert Mikaelyan Meteor over Netherlands, pictures from Groningen, October 13, 2009. Photographer Robert Mikaelyan
A large ball of fire streaking across the night time skies just after midnight had many Utahn's wondering what they saw early Wednesday morning. Dozens of calls came with people wondering if they saw a shooting star, others wondered if it was the end of the world, military testing, or even a UFO. People from Mona to Spanish Fork from Ogden to Bountiful all calling in a very similar sighting More... To many, it looked like a large fall of fire, lightning up the sky, some say like daylight, others reported a blue like light that lasted for about 30 seconds. And many reported hearing a boom about 5 minutes later. Utah's NASA and Solar System Ambassador Patrick Wiggins said that it was a meteor also known as a bolide. From his observatory near Stansbury Park he says the break up of the meteor occured at about 240 to 250 degrees azimuth which puts it just north of southwest. He also heard the sound of an explosion that would put the breakup of the bolide about 100 km in that direction placing it high above Granite Peak in the west desert.
Watching the yearly Perseid Meteor Shower from the 3rd floor of my hotel in Charlotte, NC. Behold amazing video footage of shooting stars and an occasional lulz! NEVER MISS A NEW VIDEO: Twitter: www.twitter.com Facebook: tiny.cc Dailybooth: dailybooth.com XBOX Live Gamertag: "ReallyRick"
Howard County, Iowa Deputy Tim Beckman captures this video of a fireball streaking over the Iowa sky on Wednesday, April 15th, 2010
Nasa said that projects like GalaxyZoo, in which internet users categorise galaxies by size and shape, is one inspiration for the new challenge. By drawing in mass participation in the project, Nasa will more easily be able to sort and track asteroids as they whizz above our heads.
Their initiative will work in conjunction with Nasa's upcoming attempt to land first a spacecraft on and redirect an asteroid, and then potentially human explorers on its surface (as long as Congress doesn't cancel the project first).
"Nasa already is working to find asteroids that might be a threat to our planet, and while we have found 95 percent of the large asteroids near the Earth's orbit, we need to find all those that might be a threat to Earth," said Nasa Deputy Administrator Lori Garver.
"This Grand Challenge is focused on detecting and characterising asteroids and learning how to deal with potential threats. We will also harness public engagement, open innovation and citizen science to help solve this global problem."
The agency has now released a 'Request For Information', calling on technically minded civilians, engineers and scientists to submit ideas and proposals to search for both deadly asteroids, and those it might be possible to land on and explore.Overall this is probably a good idea. Nasa chief Charles Bolden recently admitted that Nasa's best hope against a deadly asteroid was currently 'prayer'. Here's hoping the guys who landed on the Moon can figure out how to do a bit better than that.