NASA Implements Planetary Defense Coordination Office to Safeguard Against AsteroidsBy Russell Westerholm
NASA established a new office with the primary task of protecting the Earth from potentially threatening asteroids and comets.
Dubbed the Planetary Defense Coordination Office will be headed up by the Planetary Defense Officer and will be housed in the Planetary Science Division of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C., according to CNN.
"The formal establishment of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office makes it evident that the agency is committed to perform a leadership role in national and international efforts for detection of these natural impact hazards, and to be engaged in planning if there is a need for planetary defense," Lindley Johnson, a longtime near-Earth object program executive and now lead program executive for the office, said in a news release.
NASA defines potentially hazardous objects as any asteroids or comets measuring 30 to 50 meters that project to pass within 0.5 astronomical units of Earth's orbit of the sun. The primary function of Planetary Defense will be to determine if a PHO will impact the Earth and then plan a response if it happens.
"Asteroid detection, tracking and defense of our planet is something that NASA, its interagency partners, and the global community take very seriously," John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said in the release. "While there are no known impact threats at this time, the 2013 Chelyabinsk super-fireball and the recent 'Halloween Asteroid' close approach remind us of why we need to remain vigilant and keep our eyes to the sky."