MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109 (818) 354-5011
Contact: Mary Beth Murrill
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEJuly 14, 1998
JPL SELECTED FOR NEAR-EARTH OBJECT PROGRAM OFFICE
A new program office to coordinate NASA-sponsored efforts
to detect, track and characterize potentially hazardous
asteroids and comets that could approach Earth will be
established at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA.
NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office will focus on the
goal of locating at least 90 percent of the estimated 2,000
asteroids and comets that approach the Earth and are larger than
about 1 kilometer (about 2/3-mile) in diameter, by the end of
the next decade.
"These are objects that are difficult to detect because of
their relatively small size, but are large enough to cause
global effects if one hit the Earth," said Dr. Donald K. Yeomans
of JPL, who will head the new program office. "Finding a
majority of this population will require the efforts of
researchers at several NASA centers, at universities and at
observatories across the country, and will require the
participation by the international astronomy community as well."
"We determined that, in order to achieve our goals we need
a more formal focusing of our near-Earth object tracking efforts
and related communications with the supporting research
community," said Dr. Carl B. Pilcher, science director for Solar
System Exploration in NASA's Office of Space Science, NASA
Headquarters. "I want to emphasize that science research
solicitations and resulting peer reviews, international
coordination, and strategic planning regarding future missions
will remain the responsibility of NASA Headquarters."
In addition to managing the detection and cataloging of
near-Earth objects, the new NASA office will be responsible for
facilitating communications between the astronomical community
and the public should any potentially hazardous objects be
discovered as a result of the program, Pilcher said.
JPL was selected to host the program office because of its
expertise in precision tracking the positions and predicted
paths of asteroids and comets. No significant additional staff
hiring at JPL is expected at this time.
More information on NASA's research related to asteroids
and comets is available on the Internet at: