Space.com's NASA Wants a New Space Telescope to Protect Us All from Dangerous Asteroids quotes "Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate" several times, including the following:

For now, the right thing, Zurbuchen said, is to build a new space telescope capable of detecting and tracking near-Earth objects: NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory will lead the project. Zurbuchen said the new instrument could launch as early as 2025, although he emphasized that is not an official target date, which will depend on how much funding the program receives.

The new initiative is heavily based on a project called NEOCam, a mission concept that the planetary-defense community has been discussing for years. NEOCam was formally proposed as a science mission, but not selected for funding, in a decision that Zurbuchen today called "one of the biggest screwups I've made in my job."

When the NEOCam proposal was first discussed, it was considered under the framework of science, not planetary defense. And while both sides of the divide are interested in asteroids, they need different types of information. Scientists want a statistical sample: They don't need to see every single asteroid, they just want to get a good sense of what asteroids are like overall.

However the article doesn't mention the new project's name, or link to it in any way. Is this an oversight or is this telescope and its mission currently unnamed? Are there any references to this project in publicly available sites? Budget proposals perhaps?

Question: What is the name of the new NEO searching telescope "heavily based on" NEOCam? Where can we read further about it?


The new mission is going to be called NEOSM for NEO Surveillance Mission according to Twitter messages from committee members (example) or this Arstechnica article - which isn't a lot to go on. More information may emerge if the presentation slide decks are released on the Planetary Science Advisory Committee website after the meeting concludes on 2019-09-24. Given that the new mission is still looking for NEOs and is also being developed by JPL, it will re-use the technology development of the IR arrays that was done for the NEOCam instrument.

This included work to extend the wavelength response of the detectors to cover more of the part of the spectrum were NEO emissions peaks and to allow them to operate at warmer temperatures, eliminating or reducing the need for cryogen and extending the mission lifetime. Unless Congress gets generous in the next fiscal year, serious development of the mission will have to wait until spending on the DART mission ramps down.

  • $\begingroup$ this user is making progress on their project but I'm not sure they are using the software correctly. I don't have any background in this, do you have any suggestions for them? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 13 '19 at 11:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.