NASA Opens New Planetary Defense Coordination Office

Posted on January 13, 2016

Asteroid 2015 TB145

NASA has opened an office called the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO). The PDCO is the result of the formalization of NASA's ongoing program for detecting and tracking near-Earth objects (NEOs). The office is located within NASA's Planetary Science Division at the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, says in a statement, "Asteroid detection, tracking and defense of our planet is something that NASA, its interagency partners, and the global community take very seriously. While there are no known impact threats at this time, the 2013 Chelyabinsk super-fireball and the recent 'Halloween Asteroid' close approach remind us of why we need to remain vigilant and keep our eyes to the sky."

NASA says over 13,500 near-Earth objects have been discovered so far. The vast majority of them (95%) have been discovered since NASA-funded surveys began in 1998. NASA says around 1,500 NEOs are discovered annually. NASA says 90% of NEOs larger than 3,000 feet (1 kilometer) have already discovered and it is now focused on finding objects that are 450 feet (140 meters) or larger. This is a little larger than a football field.

NASA's Near Earth Object Program lists object that recently passed close to Earth as well as upcoming objects that will pass close to the Earth. The website for the PDCO is located at: nasa.gov/planetarydefense.

Image of asteroid 2015 TB145 are pictured above. The asteroid flew past Earth on Oct. 31 at a distance of 300,000 miles (480,000 kilometers) from Earth. Another image of the asteroid - dubbed the Halloween asteroid - resembled a skull.

Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR/NRAO/AUI/NSF