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NASA Needs Help Tracking Down Asteroids, Up for the Challenge?

Update Date: Jun 20, 2013 12:32 AM EDT

The White House and NASA are launching a rather ambitious plan that asks the public to help in searching and hunting down asteroids that may one day hit Earth, NASA said in a statement.

NASA's Grand Challenge is asking anyone from academics, backyard astronomers and other "citizen scientists," to help NASA find any near-Earth space rocks that may put Earth in danger.

"This is really a call to action to find all asteroid threats to human populations and know what to do about them," NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver told The Washington Post.

"NASA already is working to find asteroids that might be a threat to our planet, and while we have found 95 percent of the large asteroids near the Earth's orbit, we need to find all those that might be a threat to Earth," Garver said in the statement.  

NASA, according to the Post, says there are an estimated 25,000 near-Earth asteroids at least 100 meters in diameter, but only a quarter of them have been detected. Congress passed legislation in 2005 requiring NASA to hunt down 90 percent of all "near-Earth objects equal to or greater than 140 meters in diameter" by 2020 - an asteroid of that size is considered big enough to take out a city.

The initiative goes together with NASA's initiative to identify and bring back an asteroid so that astronauts can study it in the vicinity of the moon. It also coincides with NASA's long-running program to identify near-Earth asteroids.

NASA also released a request for information (RFI) that invites industry and potential partners to offer ideas on accomplishing NASA's goal to locate, redirect, and explore an asteroid, as well as find and plan for asteroid threats. The RFI is open for 30 days, and responses will be used to help develop public engagement opportunities and a September industry workshop, according to the statement.

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