On Tuesday, June 18, NASA proudly announced a Grand Challenge “to find all asteroid threats to human populations and know what to do about them” at the Asteroid Initiative Industry and Partner Day in Washington, DC. The goals of the day were to (1) provide more detail about the Asteroid Redirect Mission planning to find, capture, and redirect a 7-10 meter asteroid into a translunar orbit so astronauts can explore it and bring back samples to Earth, (2) announce the Grand Challenge a brand new effort and new way for NASA to do business, and (3) release a Request for Information (RFI) to solicit ideas and concepts that could support both. The Asteroid Initiative proposed in the FY14 President’s budget for NASA includes two synergistic components: the Asteroid Redirect Mission and the Grand Challenge.
The essence of this stage of the Grand Challenge is to begin to engage in a broad conversation with traditional and non-traditional partners to collaboratively design an implementation plan to manage the many pathways to address this Challenge. While there is no imminent danger from a hazardous asteroid and NASA has led a global effort resulting in discovery of 95 percent of the potentially devastating 1 km wide near-Earth asteroids, more needs to be done. Asteroid impacts and explosions from objects much smaller than 1 km, like the one over Russia in February, have the capability of rendering massive devastation and most of the objects of that size are undiscovered.
In order to accelerate and enhance the existing global effort, NASA has issued this Call to Action to expand the conversations about ways to work more collaboratively on science, technology development and threat mitigation for the Grand Challenge. Recognizing the power of traditional and innovative collaboration – including the use of public private partnerships, citizen science, crowdsourcing, and incentive prizes, in addition to international and other cooperative partnerships – NASA will lead a dialogue addressing how to best use these methods to aid in solving this global problem, together.
So how can you get involved?
NASA has issued this Request for Information to gather ideas and concepts on how best to engage the community and develop solutions for the Asteroid Initiative, which includes both the Grand Challenge and the Asteroid Redirect Mission. The RFI is open to all organizations and individuals, and submissions are due July 18. To help address questions from potential respondents, NASA technical experts will host a Google+ Hangout on June 27. You can send RFI-related questions to email@example.com in advance and during the Google+ Hangout.
The RFI is just the first of multiple engagement opportunitiesfor the Grand Challenge – including online brainstorming and a fall workshop – to meaningfully engage stakeholders. What kind of contributions would you like to make? What can you envision as possible? Share your thoughts below in the comments and via social media (#NASAAsteroid) – we’re listening, and we’ll let you know as additional opportunities become available.