NASA Spacecraft, WISE to be Reactivated to Hunt for Asteroids

Aug 23, 2013 15:15 IST

NASA on 21 August 2013 announced that it’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) will return back to service for three more years in September 2013. WISE is the same spacecraft of NASA, which was placed in hibernation after discovering and characterizing tens of thousands of asteroids throughout the solar system.  

WISE will be brought back to service to help the agency in its efforts to identify the population of potentially hazardous Near-Earth objects (NEOs), those suitable for asteroid exploration missions as well as space rocks that can be found orbiting within 45 million kilometers (28 million miles) from Earth's path around the Sun.

Aim behind Reactivation of Wise

As per the agency a 16 inch telescope along with infrared cameras will be fixed to WISE, which will allow it to study the 150 previously unknown NEOs and characterize their size, albedo and thermal properties of about 2000 others – – including some of which could be candidates for the agency's recently announced asteroid initiative.

Earlier, WISE mission achieved its mission goals and as NEOWISE extended the science even further in its survey of asteroids. NASA is now extending that record of success, which will enhance our ability to find potentially hazardous asteroids, and support the new asteroid initiative.

NASA's asteroid initiative will be the first mission to identify, capture and relocate an asteroid. It represents an unprecedented technological feat that will lead to new scientific discoveries and technological capabilities that will help protect our home planet. The asteroid initiative brings together the best of NASA's science, technology and human exploration efforts to achieve President Obama's goal of sending humans to an asteroid by 2025.

History of WISE

WISE was launched for the first time in December 2009 to look for the glow of celestial heat sources from asteroids, stars and galaxies. During its mission, WISE made about 7500 images every day during its primary mission from January 2010 to February 2011. As part of a project called NEOWISE, the spacecraft made the most accurate survey to date of NEOs. NASA turned most of WISE's electronics off when it completed its primary mission.

During 2010, NEOWISE observed about 158000 rocky bodies out of approximately 600000 known objects. Discoveries included 21 comets, more than 34000 asteroids in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter, and 135 near-Earth objects.

The WISE prime mission was to scan the entire celestial sky in infrared light. It captured more than 2.7 million images in multiple infrared wavelengths and cataloged more than 560 million objects in space, ranging from galaxies faraway to asteroids and comets much closer to Earth.

JPL manages WISE for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington. The mission is part of NASA's Explorers Program, which NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages. The Space Dynamics Laboratory in Logan, Utah, built the science instrument. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo., built the spacecraft. Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

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