I used to love looking out the window of the International Space Station when we were flying over the dark side of Earth, watching tiny asteroids leave bright trails as they hit the atmosphere hundreds of miles below us. These tiny asteroids also had bigger cousins who have left their mark on our fragile oasis, in places like the Manicouagan Crater in Canada. Countless other asteroids have hit Earth in the past, and we can expect countless more. Most will be harmless impacts but on occasion they’re not.
The Manicouagan impact crater in northern Québec is one of the world’s largest and oldest known impact craters
NASA researchers in the Near-Earth Object Program have their eyes on asteroids — characterizing scientific and exploration benefits while detecting, tracking and analyzing potentially hazardous asteroids and comets. So is B612 Foundation, where I am the chairman and CEO. This is exactly why we have set the Sentinel Project in motion.
NASA and B612 are working together under a Space Act Agreement. B612's mission is to build, launch and operate a space telescope called Sentinel to be placed in orbit around the sun, which will find and track threatening asteroids before they find us.
We have the technology to deflect asteroids (for example, kinetic impactors and gravity tractors) if we have sufficient warning. But for us to employ this technology, we first have to find these asteroids. After all, we can’t protect ourselves from something we haven’t mapped yet!
Sentinel will map the orbits and locations of near-Earth asteroids and give us the decades of warning we need to protect Earth from harmful impacts.
The Sentinel project’s interplanetary mission will complement NASA’s efforts to accomplish its overall NEO detection and tracking mission. By sending observations back to NASA, this model of research and education may enhance our knowledge base and provide additional mission options to inspire future exploration. We are glad to have our project join the Fragile Oasis community. We want to inspire you to create your own project that helps make our planet a better and safer place to live.