June 1, 2023


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The NEO Suveyor probe is under construction at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NEO Surveyor will be a probe that will support NASA’s planetary defense efforts by finding and tracking hazardous near-Earth objects.

NEO Surveyor Telescope

A space telescope design designed to search for asteroids and comets that have veered close to Earth’s orbit has recently undergone rigorous technical and software revisions. The mission is now entering the final design and production phase. A budget and schedule for future activities will also be established.

The mission is supported by NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, which, under government legislation, aims to detect and characterize at least 90% of near-Earth objects larger than 140 meters in diameter (these are called City Killers asteroids) located 48 million kilometers from our planet’s orbit. . NEO Surveyor will take NASA to the next level of detecting and cataloging potentially hazardous objects. After the recent success of the DART mission, early detection of such objects is especially important because we have a way to alter their trajectory.

Ground-based telescopes remain essential for us to constantly observe the sky, but the infrared space observatory is the highest level that will enable NASA to develop a planetary defense strategy.
— Lindley Johnson, NASA Planetary Defense Officer

Find dangerous things

The NEO Surveyor will be located at the L1 Lagrange point of gravitational stability, located between Earth and the Sun (so on the opposite side of the planet for Webb). From here, the spacecraft will observe the solar system in infrared light. The NEO surveyor’s detectors are designed to monitor two specially chosen temperature-sensitive infrared bands so that the spacecraft can target less visible near-Earth objects, such as Dark asteroids and cometsthat do not reflect much visible light. In the infrared, these objects will glow when warmed by sunlight.

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Search for dark asteroids

In addition, the NEO surveyor will be able to find asteroids that come closest to Earth from the sun, as well as track planets in our orbit, where they would normally be obscured by the sun’s glare. The mission will also help characterize the composition, shape, rotation and orbit of near-Earth objects, information that will benefit not only planetary defense but also scientists seeking to better understand these building blocks of the early solar system.

The sleeves are already rolled up

The NEO Surveyor project will build on the successes of its predecessor, NEOWISE. Work has already begun on the probe’s main instrument, and the passive cooling system and heaters are in production, as the infrared detectors need to be much cooler than the rest of the spacecraft to detect the faint infrared glow of comets and asteroids. Composite struts are under construction to insulate the telescope’s gorgeous instruments from the warm spacecraft that will carry it. The main case is the space telescope’s mirror, which will be machined from a solid block of aluminum and machined by a specially designed diamond turning machine.

Source: NASA