NASA Approves Continued Development of Asteroid Hunting Space Telescope

A critical element in planetary defense and the search for dangerous asteroid continues to plod along. The Neo Surveyor, previously named NeoCam has been on the drawing board for more than a decade. While getting approval to move to the next stage of development, the earliest date this new telescope could launch is 2026.

In 2005 congress mandated NASA with the task of detecting and cataloging at least 90 percent of Near Earth Asteroids (NEO’s) 450 feet in size by 2020. NASA failed to meet that deadline. One NASA scientist estimated that about two thirds of the NEO’s larger than 450 feet remain to be discovered.

Earth is under constant threat of an asteroid impact.

It’s curious that it typically takes an meteor impact or a close call for our government and NASA to take action. In 2013, several months after the Chelyabinsk, Russia meteor blast, the end of life space telescope WISE was reincarnated as NEOWISE to conduct a survey of asteroids. Then after the close call in July 2019 of 2019 OK, a previously undiscovered 427-foot wide asteroid that passed within 40,000 miles of Earth, NEOCam received funding after waiting in the wings for years.

Both of these close calls were from undetected asteroids. If 2019 OK had struck a city like Los Angeles, millions of people could have perished in the blink of the eye by an unknown, unseen terror from the sky.

At least continued development of NeoSurveyor has been approved without any recent threat event. Let’s hope that NASA and JPL continue to be diligent in their search for possible threats from space.

From JPL and Astronomy Magazine:

The infrared space telescope is designed to help advance NASA’s planetary defense efforts.

NASA has approved the Near-Earth Object Surveyor space telescope (NEO Surveyor) to move to the next phase of mission development after a successful mission review, authorizing the mission to move forward into Preliminary Design.

The infrared space telescope is designed to help advance NASA’s planetary defense efforts by expediting our ability to discover and characterize most of the potentially hazardous asteroids and comets that come within 30 million miles of Earth’s orbit, collectively known as near-earth objects, or NEOs.

“NEO Surveyor will have the capability to rapidly accelerate the rate at which NASA is able to discover asteroids and comets that could pose a hazard to the Earth, and it is being designed to discover 90 percent of asteroids 140 meters in size or larger within a decade of being launched,” said Mike Kelley, NEO Surveyor program scientist at NASA Headquarters.

Following completion of the goal to discover 90 percent of all NEOs larger than 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) in size in 2010, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-155) directed NASA to discover 90% of NEOs larger than 140 meters (459 feet) in size. The agency is diligently working to achieve this directive and has currently found approximately 40% of near-Earth asteroids within this size range.

“Each night, astronomers across the globe diligently use ground-based optical telescopes to discover new NEOs, characterize their shape and size, and confirm they do not pose a threat to us,” said Kelly Fast, program manager for NASA’s NEO Observations Program.…

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Feeling Cratered?

Earth has been knocked about quite a bit by asteroid strikes during its long history. All of the planets in our solar system have been heavily bombarded at one time or another, just look at the Moon. Asteroid strikes still occur, just not as often or as dramatically in the past.

Nearly 170 terrestrial impact craters have been identified on Earth ranging from a few meters to 300km (186 miles) in diameter.

Check the video created by MBS that puts the size of some of these craters into perspective! Have a Blast!

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An asteroid came ‘exceptionally close’ to hitting Earth… Again!

Largest Asteroid of 2021 to Zoom Past Earth in March, Closest Approach in  200 Years

If you check websites like or NASA’s CENEOS (Center for Near Earth Object Studies) and view the list of projected asteroid close approaches, you won’t find the little bugger that just snuck past us.

That’s because 2021 GW4 was discovered just days before it nearly smacked into Earth! As I have said repeatedly, “It’s not the asteroids we know about, it’s the ones we haven’t found yet that scare me!”

From Yahoo! News:

There will be no “Armageddon” type of situation on Earth, this time, after an asteroid the size of car just missed hitting Earth on Monday April 12th. 

The asteroid, known as 2021 GW4, traveled at 18,700 miles per hour when it passed the planet. At its closest, the asteroid was just over 12,000 miles away from Earth’s surface at 9:01 a.m. ET. For reference, most geostationary satellites are around 22,000 miles awa,y and the moon is roughly 238,900 miles away.

The asteroid was first discovered on April 8 at the Catalina Sky Survey in Mt. Lemmon, Arizona.

Astronomer and founder of the Virtual Telescope Project Gianluca Masi said it was “an exceptionally close encounter.” He captured an image of the asteroid when it was over 186,000 miles from Earth and can be seen in the middle of the image with an arrow pointed at it. 

Telescope image of asteroid 2021 GW4, which came close to hitting Earth.

“We repeat this is an absolutely safe close approach. Asteroids of that size coming so close are relatively rare, but so far this year we had four objects coming within 0.07 lunar distance from Earth’s center: 2021 GW4 is the largest of these four rocks,” Masi said.

NASA estimated that the asteroid was between 3.5-7.7 meters long, and tracked how close its orbit came to Earth’s. The size is the reason why people were not able to see it without a telescope.

Earth has dodged a couple of space bullets recently after NASA announced the 1,100-foot-long asteroid Apophis would not hit Earth in the next 100 years. That asteroid is projected to come within 20,000 miles of Earth on April 13,

It’s common for space rocks similar to 2021 GW4 to hit Earth as it happens about once a year, according to NASA. However space rocks smaller than 25 meters, over three times the size of 2021 GW4, often burn up and create, “an impressive fireball” as they enter Earth’s atmosphere.

NASA estimates that it would take an asteroid more than half a mile long to cause worldwide effects after impact.

Source: An asteroid just came ‘exceptionally close’ to hitting Earth (

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NASA Declares Earth Safe from Asteroid for 100 Years

Well, we aren’t safe from all asteroids, but a recent radar survey of the asteroid Apophis, sometimes referred to by the name,” God of Chaos” has plotted the orbit of the asteroid and declared Earth safe from impact for the next 100 years.

As Apophis made its flyby on March 5, 2021, it was tracked by the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex near Barstow, California and the orbit recalculated. The position of Apophis is now confirmed to an accuracy of 490 feet.

Don’t misunderstand, Apophis is still a potentially hazardous asteroid. It’s due to pass again on Friday the 13th 2029 and come within 20,000 miles of the planets surface. This is close enough that some earthlings will be able to spot the God of Chaos in the skies as it hopefully zips past Earth.

The new calculations assure NASA that Apophis will not impact Earth during future passes in 2038 or 2068, thus this rocky body will be removed from JPL’s Sentry Impact Risk table.

There are currently 2,179 potentially hazardous asteroids, so one down 2,178 other hazards are still out there, and new ones are being spotted all the time.

As I have stated before, it’s not the asteroids we’ve found and are tracking that concern me. It’s ones we haven’t found.

Whenever our government assures us, we are safe, that’s when I worry most.

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The Southern California Deluge of 1938

It rained in Los Angeles today. Rain in Los Angeles is a rare event.

The months of February and March make up the short winter rainy season in Southern California.

It can rain one or two days, or there can be a downpour that lasts several days before the weather returns to our normal sunny seventy-degree winter temps.

Eight-three years ago today it didn’t rain. It flooded.

The flood of 1983 is described in the novel ASTEROIDS – Bridge to Nowhere.

It was this flood that wiped out the road, still under construction, that was to wind up the San Gabriel river over the mountains to the small town of Wrightwood.

Whoever had the contract to build the bridge over the San Gabriel River finished ahead of schedule. After the flood, the road was gone, but the bridge still stood as it does today, alone in the middle of the rugged wilderness leading nowhere. The Bridge to Nowhere.

While researching ASTEROIDS, I learned about the bridge and decided to check it out for myself. It’s a strenuous five-mile hike on a trail that takes you and your wet shoes across the river at least three times. After visiting, the bridge and what lies beyond became integral elements of the story.

After ASTEROIDS was published a group of friends joined me for another trek to the bridge.

Click the link below to read a news story describing the flood of 1938 and its devasting effects on the Los Angeles region eighty-three years ago.

The Southern California Deluge of 1938 | KCET

The Southern California Deluge of 1938


By Nathan Masters

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OBSIDIAN – Tales of Karanga

A New Short Story from Mike McCoy

What if an ancient race has been here since the dawn of time and we found them…by accident?

Mas Gwinyai has been waiting for an eternity. He’s bored with the endless repetition of the life he endures. To pass the time, he tells the compelling history of conflict between the karanga and the scragg. Karanga are the noble caretakers of the garden, working to keep nature in balance. Scragg destroy the garden. They are a murderous breed that knows only war and death.

When a great battle with the scragg leaves Mas and his shipmates in a strange predicament, hope is all that keeps them alive.

As Mas begins another duty cycle, everything suddenly changes. When odd circumstances bring Mas and his shipmates face to face with the scragg for the first time in millennia can old rivalries be set aside?

Will Mas and his friends stop the cycle of war with the scragg and make peace, or is nature a force to powerful to overcome?

OBSIDIAN is an intriguing and thought-provoking tale. It’s a story that takes place in a time long ago and present day. It’s a fantastical view of a world wiped away at the end of an ice age. A story of war and devastating floods clearing the way for modern civilization and a study of cultural bias and misunderstandings that cause endless strife.

Why do we war, kill, and fight?

Are the scragg human and the karanga something more, something different, something lost or somewhere hidden? How do humans treat other humans? How do we react when we stumble upon something we don’t understand? Do we stop and learn when presented with something extraordinary, or do we dissect and destroy it? Can we rise above and be more like them, or are we slaves to our nature?

The karanga character names and many of the words are based on the Shona language. Shona is a Bantu language of the Shona people of Zimbabwe and Karanga is a dialect. I like the sound and tone of the words. I hoped to add depth through language as an aid in developing the characters as an ancient noble people.

Read OBSIDIAN Free with Kindle Unlimited or for just 99 cents on Amazon

Get your copy today!

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Discovered! The 10th Planet

Object Bigger than Pluto Discovered, Called 10th Planet

Pluto, the on again, off again planet whose designation seems to shift with the winds of conjecture would, if this solitary sphere could indeed hold on to it’s planetary designation, be the ninth planet in our solar system. Not to be confused with the yet to be found Planet Nine, which until today lurks in the blackness of space unwilling to give up its location.

So, if Pluto is indeed the ninth planet, that means a new planet discovered out in the Kuiper belt at the edges of our Heliosphere would be the tenth planet.

If the debate about what objects should be considered planets rages on, maybe the discussion about what should be included in our solar system is up for debate as well because this planet is way, way out there.

The planetary object designated as 2003 UB313 is 97 AU from the Sun. An AU or astronomical unit is measured as the distance between the Sun and Earth. Pluto’s orbit ranges from 30 to 49 AU.

If 2003 UB313 is twice the distance from the Sun as Pluto, this new planet is really far away. The Heliopause, the boundary of the Heliosphere, a vast bubble-like region that encapsules our solar system in plasma and solar wind, is considered the edge of our solar system lies somewhere between 94 and 123 AU.

So, if 2003 UB313 is 97 AU away from the Sun, is it actually in our solar system?

Mike McCoy

Object Bigger than Pluto Discovered, Called 10th Planet

By Robert Roy Britt 

Astronomers have discovered an object in our solar system that is larger than Pluto. They are calling it the 10th planet, but already that claim is contested.

The new world’s size is not at issue. But the very definition of planethood is.

It is the first time an object so big has been found in our solar system since the discovery of Pluto 75 years ago.

The announcement, made today by Mike Brown of Caltech, came just hours after another newfound object, one slightly smaller than Pluto, was revealed in a very confusing day for astronomers and the media.

The new object, temporarily named 2003 UB313, is about three times as far from the Sun as is Pluto.

“It’s definitely bigger than Pluto,” said Brown, a professor of planetary astronomy. The object is round and could be up to twice as large as Pluto, Brown told reporters in a hastily called NASA-run teleconference Friday evening. His best estimate is that it is 2,100 miles wide, about 1-1/2 times the diameter of Pluto.

One of many?

The object is inclined by a whopping 45 degrees to the main plane of the solar system, where most of the other planets orbit. That’s why it eluded discovery: nobody was looking there until now, Brown said.

Some astronomers view it as a Kuiper Belt object and not a planet. The Kuiper Belt is a region of frozen objects beyond Neptune.…

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Asteroids: Not Just a Video Game

There are a lot of giant asteroids out in space, and it’s just a matter of time before another one finds a bullseye on Earth. What can we do about it?

Article as posted on Medium written by: A.S. Deller

Managing the Existential Threat of Asteroids

Our Earth has been struck by asteroids countless times, mostly during the period immediately following our solar system’s formation — thankfully, when there was no life on the planet.

But numerous giant hunks of space rock have hit us in the billions of years since those early days.

Often the terms “asteroid” and “meteoroid” are conflated. They do, in fact, have different definitions. An asteroid is a very large chunk of rock and metal orbiting the Sun, while meteoroids are considerably smaller. When a meteoroid vaporizes in our atmosphere (creating that characteristic “shooting star” trail), it’s called a meteor. And when it makes it through the atmosphere and actually crashed into the Earth’s surface, we call it a meteorite.

The actual size range that classifies something as an asteroid rather than a meteoroid doesn’t have an exact lower limit, with the smallest usually considered “boulder-sized”. The largest known asteroid at this time is Ceres, at nearly 600 miles in diameter. Ceres lies in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and is such a large body that we also categorize it as a dwarf planet.


Meteor Crater, Arizona. At over 1 km (.74 miles) across, this crater was made by a meteor only 50 meters (160 ft) in diameter. CREDIT: NASA

When a meteor or meteorite hits our atmosphere or surface, it is generally not a threat to many people, and certainly would never be an extinction-level threat. One of the more recent and publicized of such occurrences happened over the Ural region of Russia on February 15, 2013, known as the Chelyabinsk meteor. This began as a 20-ton asteroid but burned off most of that mass in the atmosphere before exploding at an altitude of 18.5 miles with the energy of roughly 30 Hiroshima bombs. The shockwave blew out windows in six regional cities, injuring 1500 people.

This was the largest such meteor explosion since the larger Tunguska event in 1908 which flattened nearly 800 square miles of forest in Siberia. Without the benefit of modern technology to analyze the event, it is still unknown if the Tunguska explosion was caused by an asteroid or a comet, though based on the destruction it is estimated the object was anywhere from 200 to 600 feet in diameter.

There are about 175 known asteroid impact craters on Earth at this time. Arizona’s Meteor Crater (not so original a name, I know) was created about 50,000 years ago, while it is believed the gigantic crater off the Yucatan Peninsula was made 65 million years ago and accounts for the ultimate extinction of the dinosaurs.


This image, taken by NASA’s Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous mission in 2000, shows a close-up view of Eros, an asteroid with an orbit that takes it somewhat close to Earth.

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Current spacesuits won’t cut it on the moon. So NASA made new ones.

When you have the chance to read my upcoming novel; TAC FORCE – Son’s of Khan, you will see how far mankind has come from where we are today. The story is centered around Moon Base Alpha and the opening of the first hotel on the
Moon. Most of the necessary resources like oxygen, water and food are being produced on base. Specialized equipment and processors have been developed to make sustainable living on the moon a reality.

When I see articles like the one below describing the new space suits astronauts of the Artemis project will wear, I see how far mankind and our technology must advance before a base like the one described in my novel is possible. We have a long way to go, but if we have the will, I am sure we will get there.


As astronauts get ready to go back to the moon and spend more time in space, they’ll need better gear to help them survive.


by Neel V. Patel

December 29, 2020


The upper torso of NASA’s xEMU design. NASA

A spacesuit is more like a miniature spacecraft you wear around your body than an item of clothing. It’s pressurized, it’s decked out with life support systems, and it’s likely to look pretty cool. But should the suit fail, you’re toast. 

No one has ever died because of a faulty spacesuit, but that doesn’t mean current models are perfect. Whether it’s for launch into space or reentry back to Earth, or for an extravehicular activity (EVA, colloquially known as a spacewalk), astronauts have never been completely satisfied with the gear they are forced to put on for missions. 

Fortunately, though, the flurry of new activity in space has meant we’re seeing more innovation in spacesuit design and performance than ever before. The suits look better, too. The emergence of new private vehicles like SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner means NASA astronauts going to the International Space Station are wearing new spacesuits that are extremely sleek and chic. In place of the baggy orange Advanced Crew Escape Suit (affectionately nicknamed the “pumpkin suit”) that space shuttle crews used to wear when launching into orbit, SpaceX and Boeing have designed something that is much more form-fitting and half the mass. Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, the astronauts who went up on the Crew Dragon to the ISS in Mayremarked that they were extremely comfortable and easy to get on and off. Suits that are worn during takeoff and reentry are designed to protect astronauts from fire, and they plug into seat umbilicals that carry oxygen and cool air in case the cabin depressurizes for some reason. 

The most interesting work, however, has to do with NASA’s next-generation spacesuit for astronauts going to the moon—the eXploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or xEMU. It is ostensibly the successor to the spacesuits worn by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and other Apollo astronauts when they set foot on the lunar surface half a century ago.

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SpaceX Starship High-Altitude Flight Test

Today SpaceX launched their Starship for its first high-altitude test.

You can see from the video below, that only a few Raptor engines were installed. A full launch will have at least 36 Raptor engines.

Maybe the lack of engines is the reason for the explosive landing! What is remarkable is that it launched, performed maneuvers, and came in for a controlled, hard landing.

In my upcoming novel TAC FORCE – Sons of Khan, Star Cruisers landing on and taking off from the moon are common, everyday occurrences.

We aren’t at that point yet, but the progress we are seeing from SpaceX and their Starship demonstrate that our imagined future is on the way!


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