NASA announced this week that it would proceed with the development of an “asteroid hunting space telescope” that will scan the solar system for any objects that could pose a major threat to life on Earth.
The “infrared space telescope” is “designed to help advance NASA’s planetary defense efforts by expediting our ability to discover and characterize most of the potentially hazardous asteroids and comets that come within 30 million miles of Earth’s orbit,” the space agency said in a press release on Friday.
The device, called the Near-Earth Object Surveyor, “will have the capability to rapidly accelerate the rate at which NASA is able to discover asteroids and comets that could pose a hazard to the Earth,” project scientist Mike Kelley said in the release.
The device “is being designed to discover 90 percent of asteroids 140 meters in size or larger within a decade of being launched,” he added.
Scientists have postulated that asteroid strikes in the past have caused widespread destruction and die-outs among earthbound species, including most famously the massive asteroid thought to have struck the Earth about 66 million years ago, likely causing the death of all non-avian dinosaurs as a result.