The US space agency NASA wants to develop a space telescope to detect and track asteroids in the sky. NASA associate administrator for science in Washington, Thomas Zurbuchen said that the agency is moving forward with plans to launch an infrared telescope. The launch of the telescope is likely to become a reality by mid of the next decade. Once it is launched, the infrared telescope will be able to detect and track asteroids that are on a collision course with planet Earth. Researchers working in this field feel that it would be a remarkable step by the agency in space technology. The telescope in the infrared spectrum is essential because dark asteroids are more abundant than one can think. In a report, Jay Melosh, a planetary scientist at Purdue University in Indiana said there are a lot of dark asteroids in the sky. This, he said, pushes for the need of having an infrared telescope.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA will lead the project. The new telescope would cost around USD 500 million. Giving a timeline of the project, Zurbuchen said that the telescope could be launched as early as 2025. He, however, said that it was not an official deadline to develop the telescope. The completion of project would depend on how much funding the laboratory receives for the program.
The new telescope would be closely modelled on the Near-Earth Object Camera or NEOCam project which is in discussions for years. NEOCam is a proposed space infrared telescope that is aimed at surveying and discovering asteroids larger than 140 meters that are dangerous for the Earth in the solar system. Zurbuchen said that NEOCam proposals were submitted thrice — 2006, 2010, and 2015 to the NASA Discovery Program. In 2016, the NEOCam team even planned to launch the program in 2021 and it was formally proposed as a science mission. But it was not selected for funding. Hence, it was never selected for launch.