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A telescope that’ll save the earth? It’s going to cost $500m


An infrared telescope named the NEOCam could save the Earth from devastating asteroids coming our way. The development of this telescope costs $500million.

The plan is one of five schemes battling for funding as part of Nasa’s Discovery programme.

The device would use infrared detectors to find more than 10 times the number already discovered.

The threat of a meteorite hitting the earth and causing devastation is very real – and Nasa’s current Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, which searches for the heat NEOs give off, will stop operating next year.

In 2013, a 54-feet long meteorite exploded over the Russian state of Chelyabinsk, hospitalising more than 1,400 people, including 311 children, damaging more than 7,000 buildings and causing more than £22million worth of damage.

And an asteroid measuring more than six miles wide which crashed into the Gulf of Mexico 65million years ago is believed to have caused the dinosaurs to become extinct.

It is hoped the NEOCam would give scientists and governments ample time to help deal with a potentially devastating impactor.

The USA’s Congress says that NEOs measuring 140 metres or more are a threat and have asked Nasa to catalogue them.

But the agency says the government’s 2020 deadline won’t be met unless more funding is available.

Lindley Johnson, programme officer for Nasa’s NEO survey said: “With the current capabilities we have, the deadline of 2020 is not achievable.

“There are no penalties for missing the deadline, so long as there’s nothing big out there that’s going to hit us.”

But the telescope would not just look for deadly space rocks.

The device would also look for areas which had not been explored by space scientists, and would help an understanding of the history of the solar system.


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