Nonprofit Wants to Launch Asteroid-Spotter

Scientific American

Click here to listen to this podcast

Are we smarter than the dinosaurs? Specifically, are we clever enough to avoid their fate? If we don’t want to be blown away by an asteroid, it would help to know what’s out there. That’s the idea behind the Sentinel mission.  

Sentinel is an infrared space telescope designed to spot near-Earth asteroids. But it won’t be near-Earth. It will launch in 2017 or '18 and adopt a Venus-like orbit around the sun. From there it will search space for any asteroids that might come dangerously close to Earth. It could double the known count of near-Earth asteroids in a matter of weeks. With enough warning, we’d have a chance to deflect an inbound asteroid. 

Sentinel is the brainchild of the B612 Foundation. B612 was the asteroid home of literature’s Little Prince. The group announced their plans for Sentinel on June 28th. 

But those plans depend on funding. The B612 Foundation is a nonprofit that aims to finance Sentinel through philanthropy. Former NASA astronaut Ed Lu heads the foundation. He says Sentinel needs a few hundred million dollars to get off the ground. 

That’s a lot of cash, but the B612 Foundation might make it. After all, when it comes to fundraising, humans leave the dinosaurs in the dust.

—John Matson

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

Follow Scientific American on Twitter @SciAm and @SciamBlogs. Visit for the latest in science, health and technology news.
© 2012 All rights reserved.

View Comments (1)