NASA exec to discuss asteroid missions at Longway

FLINT — Rob Landis thinks it might be a good idea for NASA to launch a mission exploring asteroids. As a program executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., it’s his job to propose missions in the planetary science division. Come listen to Rob explain why it’s important to study asteroids and what it would take to land on an asteroid at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, at the Longway Planetarium.

Near-Earth objects or ‘NEOs’ are the leftover bits of solar system jetsam and flotsam that have been nudged into orbits that allow them to come into Earth’s neighborhood.

NASA recently established a new office to coordinate planetary defense-related activities across various U.S. agencies as well as international efforts to plan a response to the potential asteroid impact hazard.

The creation of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) is a logical and formal maturation of NASA’s NEO Observations program which began nearly two decades ago.

Since the program’s inception in 1998, NASA-funded endeavors have discovered more than 98 percent of all new NEOs.

As important as it is to mitigate a potential impact event, the first essential step is to find these ‘near- Earth vagabonds’ early. To that end, NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office leads national and international efforts to:

• detect any potential for significant impact of the Earth by natural objects;

• appraise the range of potential effects by any possible object; and

• develop strategies to mitigate impact effects on human welfare.

In his presentation, Landis will share the current efforts to detect, track and characterize comets and asteroids that come close to our planet. And, if need be, what steps would likely be taken to deflect a potential impactor.

Landis is currently assigned to NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC [in the Science Mission Directorate, Planetary Science Division] as the program executive in the Planetary Defense Coordination Office.

He has had a varied career on several NASA missions including the Hubble Space Telescope, the Cassini mission at Saturn, the Mars Exploration Rovers, and the International Space Station (ISS). Main-belt asteroid ‘8136 Landis’ (provisional designation 1979 MH2) is named in his honor.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets cost $6 for adults, $4 for seniors age 60 and older, $4 for youth age 2 to 11 years. Free for members. Tickets include admission to 7 p.m. show. — L.R.

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