The Planetary Society recognizes the threat that asteroids and comets--known as Near Earth Objects, or NEOs--represent. While an asteroid strike could have devastating effects, the good news is that an asteroid impact is the only natural disaster that is completely preventable. Our most important program provides small grants to astronomers who seek to discover, observe and track NEOs. We give these grants out through the Shoemaker NEO grant program.
Asteroids and comets passing close by are known as near-Earth Objects, or NEOs, and they pose a significant threat to Earth. For example, the small Chelyabinsk asteroid that struck in Russia February 2013 released 20+ times more energy than the Hiroshima bomb. It blew-out windows throughout the region, injuring some 1,500 people. The good news is that an asteroid impact is the one natural disaster that we may be able to prevent through research to catalogue NEOs and spacecraft to redirect them.
We provide small grants to amateur and under-funded professional astronomers who seek to discover, track and characterize NEOs. We award these grants through the Shoemaker NEO grant program-named after Gene Shoemaker, a pioneering planetary geologist who raised awareness of the threat these objects pose. On a two-year cycle, we award over $30,000 in these small Shoemaker NEO grants. Over the past 17 years, we've awarded over $270,000 to 35 astronomers in 16 countries and 5 continents.
It is inevitable that our planet's orbit will intersect one day with the path of an asteroid or comet. It's not, however, inevitable that a NEO will hit the earth, if we plan ahead. We ask you to consider supporting the work of the determined astronomers with the patience and skill to scan our skies for NEOs. We are reviewing grant proposals for the 2015 round of grants this spring. Please make a gift today-your gift will help determine the size and number of grants that we are able to offer.