NASA has activated the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), its program for the detection and tracking of space objects belonging to the NEO (Near-Earth Object) category, meaning the type whose orbit is close to that of Earth. This office is part of the agency’s Planetary Science Division, will be responsible for coordinating all projects connected to NEO-type asteroids and comets and will have a leading role in coordinating efforts with other agencies and governments about potential impact threats.
NASA announced the choice of a target for the second mission of the New Horizons space probe. It’s a so-called Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) officially called 2014 MU69. Informally called PT1 (Potential Target 1), it’s one of the objects selected in October 2014 among those discovered using the Hubble Space Telescope with just that purpose.
Today marks the first Asteroid Day, a day dedicated to raising public awareness about the potential danger posed by asteroids and any space object whose trajectory passes through the Earth’s orbit. The date was chosen because it’s the anniversary of the Tunguska event, the destruction of a large area of Siberia that took place on June 30, 1908 due to the impact of a meteorite or a piece of comet.
NASA activated a new section of its website to host the application Vesta Trek, which aims to provide a detailed view of the giant asteroid Vesta. This application works in browsers allowing anyone to explore Vesta in detail thanks to its interactive maps. Among its tools, there’s also one that allows you to export topographic elements to recreate them with a 3D printer.
NASA has announced new details on the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which over the next decade aims to test new technologies for use in future manned missions in deep space. However, this mission will be accomplished by a spacecraft that will reach an asteroid, will pick up a boulder and will carry it up to the Moon to place it in a stable orbit. There, astronauts will be able to go to study it to prepare for deep space missions.