SNOOS: Small Near-Earth Object Observing System
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In Dec. 2005, Congress asked that NASA plan, develop, and implement a Near-Earth Object Survey Program to detect, track, catalogue, and characterize the physical characteristics of Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) equal to, or greater than, 140 meters in diameter in order to assess the threat of such NEOs impacting the Earth. It was determined that the goal of the Survey program would be to achieve 90% completion of its Near-Earth Object catalogue by the end of 2020.
The SEOR team was motivated by the effort from NASA to survey 90% of NEOs greater than 140 meters in diameter, as NEOs pose a risk to life on earth. However the question is what, if anything, should be done with respect to the much more numerous, smaller (less than 140 meters), but still potentially dangerous NEOs? There is an estimated population greater than 700,000 NEOs whose diameter falls between 30 and 140 meters.
Small NEOs, ranging from 30 to 140 meters in size and which cannot be detected by current ground-based systems, can deliver enough kinetic energy to destroy local populaces, kill hundreds of thousands, and/or cause economic devastation. The small NEO to large NEO ratio is roughly 36:1, resulting in a higher likelihood of a small NEO Earth-impact.
Small NEOs pose a significant threat to life on Earth. No current or planned observation capability for these objects exists.