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Planetary Defense

The Planetary Society recognizes the threat that asteroids and comets–known as Near-Earth Objects (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 role in planetary defense ranges from our Laser Bees project to redirect asteroids, to our Shoemaker NEO grant program to support astronomers who seek to discover, observe and track NEOs.

We are also committed to educating about the asteroid threat and The Planetary Society’s 5 Step Plan to Prevent Asteroid Impact. As a special edition of our Random Space Fact video series, we have produced a series of 6 fun, short videos to introduce you to the asteroid threat and The Planetary Society’s 5 Step Plan. To learn more, you can sign up for our free online course about the threat of asteroid impact and what we can do to prevent it. And to teach others about planetary defense, sign up or log in as a volunteer to access our planetary defense outreach toolkit.

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You can learn more about what The Planetary Society is doing below. Also, check out NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office, who we coordinated with on our videos.

Asteroids and Comets

Is there an asteroid or comet out there that poses a risk to life on Earth? The answer is certainly "yes," but we don't yet know where the next major impactor will come from or when it will crash. The best way to size up the threat and reduce this uncertainty is to search the skies for these crumbs of the solar system, categorizing asteroids and comets using the Torino Scale.

An Asteroid This Way Comes

The Planetary Society / Kim Orr

An Asteroid This Way Comes
What are near-Earth objects and how could they affect us?

Shoemaker NEO Grant Program

The Planetary Society established the Gene Shoemaker Near Earth Object Grant program to award amateur observers, observers in developing countries, and professional astronomers who, with seed funding, can greatly increase their programs' contributions to NEO research. Grant recipients have played critical roles in tracking small asteroids that were discovered by major asteroid survey programs, and providing the crucial follow-up observations to determine precise orbits for these objects.

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Planetary Defense Conference

The Planetary Society is very involved with the IAA Planetary Defense Conference (PDC). Held every 2 years, the event brings together international experts from all aspects of the asteroid threat issue. Attending are experts on finding, tracking, characterizing, and deflecting asteroids, as well as those involved with asteroid missions, and those involved, like The Planetary Society, with educating the public and international leaders.  

The Planetary Society is a primary sponsor of the PDC and Planetary Society Chief Scientist Bruce Betts serves on the organizing committee. We also typically host a public event tied to the conference.  You can watch the May 1, 2019 PDC public event at the University of Maryland featuring Bill Nye, several asteroid threat experts, and NASA Chief Scientist Jim Green, or listen our own Planetary Radio Live portion of the show as host Mat Kaplan interviews asteroid threat experts.

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Laser Bees

We've been working with a team at the University of Strathclyde and the University of Glasgow in Scotland to study a new technique which uses concentrated light to gently move an asteroid – a project we called "Mirror Bees" – using mirrors on several spacecraft swarming around an asteroid to focus sunlight onto a spot on the asteroid. As part of the initial Mirror Bees project, researchers found that lasers are more effective than mirrors and can be used from greater distances. So, now the project is called "Laser Bees."

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Defending Earth

The Planetary Society / Kim Orr

Defending Earth
The Planetary Society's 5-step plan for tackling the asteroid threat.

Blogs about Planetary Defense

Planetary Defense Conference 2013 Part 2

Bruce Betts • May 29, 2013

Second part of a three part wrap up to April's Planetary Defense Conference: a report on Planetary Shoemaker NEO Grant related activities and people at the Planetary Defense Conference 2013

Planetary Defense Conference 2013 Part 1

Bruce Betts • May 24, 2013 • 2

First part of a 3 part wrap up to April's Planetary Defense Conference: a very brief review of the status of research in asteroid threat related fields based on the conference, report on special activities at the conference, and links to video and audio related to the conference.

Saving the Planet can be Exciting!

Mat Kaplan • May 07, 2013

Planetary Radio for the week of May 6 visits the Planetary Defense Conference one last time to join a "tabletop" simulation of a killer asteroid threat.

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