NASA's Grand Asteroid Challenge pits the private sector against space rocks

NASA has been aggressive about identifying near-Earth objects that could pose a threat to our planet in the future, as well as pursuing ideas to deal with space rock aimed at Earth. It has taken its efforts to the next level with its new Grand Asteroid Challenge, which was announced at the space agency's headquarters earlier today.

The challenge is aimed at finding all the asteroid threats to our planet, and invites a wide range of individuals to participate: academics, government agencies and indrusty agencies, international partners, and even citizen scientists. According to the agency, this is a complementary program to its mission of sending astronauts to an asteroid for exploration purposes.

The Grand Challenges, as they're called, are a push by the Obama Administration to further innovations and make new discoveries in the areas of technology and science. As such, the White House's Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation Tom Kalil is quoted as praising the initiative, saying that the mission to find and mitigate asteroid threats is an "all-hands-on-deck effort."

As part of the initiative, the space agency has released an RFI (request for information) that seeks methods developed by the industry as a whole on how to find the asteroids, then deal with them, whether that involves exploration or redirection, of which one such idea you can see in the image above. The RFI will last for 30 days.

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said: "NASA already is working to find asteroids that might be a threat to our planet, and while we have found 95 percent of the large asteroids near the Earth's orbit, we need to find all those that might be a threat to Earth. This Grand Challenge is focused on detecting and characterizing asteroids and learning how to deal with potential threats. We will also harness public engagement, open innovation and citizen science to help solve this global problem."