In 1908, an incoming asteroid or comet blasted apart over Siberia, Russia, leveling 830 square miles (2,150 square kilometers) of trees.
“You don’t want to put off for some future date, if you can make a difference now, something which relates directly to human lives and public safety,” Schweickart said. “That’s why we’ve taken the initiative.”
During its planned 5 1/2 year mission, Sentinel should be able to find 90% of near-Earth asteroids that are 460 feet (140 meters) in diameter or larger, and about 50 percent of asteroids 130 feet (40 meters) in diameter.
In addition to looking out for potentially dangerous asteroids, the information could be used for proposed asteroid mining projects and by researchers.
The telescope will be built by Ball Aerospace and operated by the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder, Colorado.
It is expected to be launched in 2017 or 2018 aboard one of Space Exploration Technologies’ Falcon 9 rockets.