NEOWISE: Why is NASA ending its search for asteroids and comets? | Answers

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The Near-Earth Object Wide Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission will end on July 31, after 14 years of successfully searching for asteroids and comets in space, NASA said.

A legacy of the NEOWISE mission

NASA’s NEOWISE will be decommissioned after exceeding science goals on two missions launched as WISE (Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer). WISE was launched by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in December 2009 as a six-month mission to scan the sky. By July 2010, WISE had achieved this with greater sensitivity than previous surveys, and NASA extended the mission until 2011.

During this phase, WISE studied distant galaxies, outgassing comets, exploding white dwarf stars, and brown dwarfs. Additionally, it has identified tens of thousands of active black holes. It also produced data on circumstellar disks (clouds of gas, dust and debris that surround stars) that citizen scientists continue to mine through the Disk Detective project.

In addition, the mission excelled in the search for main belt asteroids and near-Earth objects, and discovered the first known terrestrial Trojan asteroid. What’s more, the mission provided a survey of dark, faint near-Earth objects that are difficult to detect with ground-based telescopes, revealing that these objects make up a significant fraction of the near-Earth object population.

D vice is a new vice

In 2013, NASA reactivated the mission under the name NEOWISE A precursor to the Planetary Defense Program against potential asteroids. Through repeated observations of the sky from low Earth orbit, NEOWISE has made 1.45 million infrared measurements of more than 44,000 solar system objects to date, NASA said on its website.

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The spacecraft has exceeded all expectations and has provided a vast amount of data that has been used by the scientific community for decades.s,” said Joseph Hunt, NEOWISE project manager at JPL. “Scientists and engineers working with WISE and NEOWISE have also developed a knowledge base that will help inform future infrared reconnaissance missions.” he added.

Why will the NEOWISE mission end?

The space telescope will continue its survey till July 31. Then, on August 8, mission controllers at JPL will send a command that will put NEOWISE into hibernation for the last time. Since launch, NEOWISE’s orbit has been drawing closer to Earth. NEOWISE is expected to burn up in our planet’s atmosphere in late 2024 and early 2025..

NASA’s new mission: NEO Surveyor

As NEOWISE nears its end, another mission with the same goal is taking shape. It is the Near Earth Object Surveyor (NEO Surveyor) mission. NASA said on its website that it is the first infrared space telescope designed to hunt dangerous near-Earth objects. Its launch is scheduled for late 2027 and represents a major step in the agency’s planetary defense strategy.

“After developing new techniques for finding and characterizing near-Earth objects hidden in large amounts of its infrared survey data, NEOWISE is helping us build and operate NASA’s next-generation infrared space telescope. This is a pioneering mission,” said Amy, NEOWISE principal investigator and NEO surveyor at the University of California, Los Angeles. “The NEO Surveyor will cause significant damage to Earth if we don’t find hard-to-find asteroids and comets first,” Mainzer added.

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