Although the space agency has suffered from insufficient funding for its task, NASA has pressed ahead in the long process of finding near-Earth objects, which are more commonly referred to as NEOs. By doing so, the agency is able to anticipate whether a particular space rock is a future threat to our planet, something that is part of its larger goal of developing technology to deflect asteroids into a safer trajectory. A lot of progress has been made, and the first milestone has been reached – the identification of the 10,000th NEO.
According to NASA, the 10,000th NEO – dubbed 2013 MZ5 – was found on June 18 via Maui’s Pan-STARRS-1 telescope, a 10,000-foot structure located in the Haleakala crater. The 2013 MZ5 asteroid measures 1000-feet across, making it large, but not the largest to have been discovered. Most NEOs are less than a kilometer (six-tenths of a mile) in size.
NASA’s Program Executive of its Near-Earth Object Observations Program Lindley Johnson said: “Finding 10,000 near-Earth objects is a significant milestone. But there are at least 10 times that many more to be found before we can be assured we will have found any and all that could impact and do significant harm to the citizens of Earth.”
NASA has had widespread success in this area, being responsible for funding surveys responsible for detecting 98-percent of all NEOs. In order to be classified as a near-Earth object, the comet or asteroid identified must be within 28 million miles of our planet. Thus far, the biggest one to be found is the giant 1036 Ganymed, which measures 25 miles across its longest part.
About 10-percent of the NEOs discovered have measured in at a size greater than 1 kilometer, which is the size at which the space agency believes an asteroid impact could have an affect on the entire planet. Fortunately, thus far none of these particularly huge space rocks have been found in a position that threatens our planet. It is expected there are a “few dozen more” 1 kilometer+ sized NEOs still to be found.