Sunday, December 22, 2013

A good first step

The Chelyabinsk meteorite strike conveyed the potential (if note the probable) danger to the citizenry of the world (and possibly human civilization itself) if a considerably bigger rogue asteroid smashed into our world.  So NASA turned the WISE mission into the NEOWISE mission to look for more of the dangerous ones.

First they looked at images they collected for the four months after the hydrogen coolant ran out.  Then they proposed to turn it on again (it was put into "cold storage" after the end of the official mission).   I wondered how they could do that, but I found the answer on the mission Web site:

"Although the solid hydrogen is gone, the mission could still operate at its two shortest infrared wavelengths, returning valuable data on the numbers, orbits, sizes, and compositions of asteroids and comets."
So they just turned it back on, to look for more threats to human civilization.  If they find any, I sure hope we have time to figure out how to steer it off. 

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