B612 Foundation Defends Earth from Potential Asteroid Impacts

CALIFORNIA - The B612 Foundation is a private nonprofit foundation with headquarters in the United States, dedicated to planetary defense against asteroids and other near-Earth object (NEO) impacts. It is led mainly by scientists, former astronauts and engineers from the Institute for Advanced Study, Southwest Research Institute, Stanford University, NASA and the space industry.

As a non-governmental organisation it has conducted two lines of related research to help detect NEOs that could one day strike the Earth, and find the technological means to divert their path to avoid such collisions. The organisation has publicised the true rate of "city-killer" type impacts of the same magnitude as the explosive 1908 Tunguska event, a rate which is from three to ten times greater than previously believed, or about every century on average. It also assisted the Association of Space Explorers in helping the United Nations establish the International Asteroid Warning Network, as well as a Space Missions Planning Advisory Group to provide oversight on proposed asteroid deflection missions.

In 2012, the foundation announced it would design and build a privately financed asteroid-finding space observatory, the Sentinel Space Telescope, to be launched in 2017–2018. Once stationed in a heliocentric orbit around the Sun similar to that of Venus, Sentinel's supercooled infrared detector will help identify dangerous asteroids and other NEOs that pose a risk of collision with Earth. In the absence of substantive planetary defense provided by governments worldwide, B612 is conducting a fundraising campaign to cover the Sentinel Mission, estimated at $450 million for 10 years of operation. Fund raising has been very slow—raising only US$3 million in 2012 and 2013—and, as of June 2015, NASA is re-examining its reliance on private sector approach to space-based NEO survey missions.

The B612 Foundation is named for the asteroid home of the eponymous hero of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince.

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