University Of Arizona Professor To Lead Major NASA Project

By Ginny Reese

August 2, 2021

Photo: Getty Images

A professor from the University of Arizona has been chosen to head up a major NASA project, reported FOX 10 Phoenix. The professor will lead a project, called NEO Surveyor, that will track objects that come near Earth.

Dr. Amy Mainzer is a Professor of Planetary Sciences at the University of Arizona and has always wanted to work on a space project. Dr. Mainzer said, "This is a really big deal because basically, we have the technology now to go out there."

Dr. Mainzer is tracking near-Earth objects, such as asteroids, to get ahead of them. Dr. Mainzer explained:

"The whole point of this project is to basically go out and look and see what is out there in our solar neighborhood. To see if there are any asteroids of comets that could potentially be heading our way that are large enough to cause any real damage."

Though there is already a project involving a telescope that tracks these objects, Dr. Mainzer says this one is different. Mainzer said:

"We've seen a such a small number of Near-Earth Objects, roughly about 1,000 or 2,000 or so, but we know that there are 10s, or even hundreds of thousands more out there. That is what the annual survey was designed to do. It is really going to go and mop up a large fraction of the near-Earth asteroids and comets that are big enough to cause severe regional damage.
We want to make sure we're going to find out where it's going to go, so that we have as much time as possible to plan any mitigation we might have to should we find something that is headed our way, so we're going to do our very best to get out there and do a really good look."

The surveyor is expected to launch in early 2026.

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