The asteroid Eros as seen by the NEAR mission in 2000. Photo: NASA/JPL/JHUAPL

NASA is planning to build a spacecraft designed to search the skies for asteroids not far from Earth.

Why it matters: The telescope will help NASA get a more complete sense of how many potentially dangerous asteroids there are near our planet and what harm they may pose.

Details: The mission will survey the skies in infrared light, making it easier to see these objects that are typically dark in optical wavelengths.

  • NASA expects that the NEO Surveillance Mission will cost about $500 million–$600 million in total and will launch no earlier than fiscal year 2025, according to a presentation earlier this week.
  • The mission is expected to help NASA find 90% of near-Earth objects that are 140 meters (459 feet) in size or greater, as mandated by Congress.
  • The NEO Surveillance Mission is in line with recommendations made by a report from the National Academies released in June.

Background: NASA was surprised by a football field-sized asteroid that flew past Earth in July, highlighting the fact that the space agency's current detection methods aren't robust enough.

Where it stands: NASA's NEOWISE telescope is currently surveying the sky in infrared light, but that mission is expected to come to an end in the near future.

  • Survey telescopes on Earth are effective when it comes to finding near-Earth objects, but unlike a space-based infrared observatory, the Earth-bound telescopes require it to be night to hunt for asteroids.
  • NASA plans to launch its DART spacecraft to an asteroid in 2021 to figure out how to best redirect a space rock if one is found on a collision course with Earth.

Be smart: While the threat posed by a large asteroid could be catastrophic, the odds of one hitting Earth are also slim.

  • "It's something to be smart about, but it's not a matter of fear," NASA scientist Tom Statler told Axios in July.

Go deeper: Read more from Space News about the mission

Go deeper

Americans reflect on Independence Day amid racism reckoning

A Black Lives Matter banner and a United States flag on the facade of the U.S. embassy building in Seoul, South Korea. Photo: Simon Shin/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

America's leaders are rethinking how they view Independence Day, as the country reckons with the historic, unequal treatment of people of color during a pandemic which has disproportionately affected nonwhite Americans.

Why it matters: The country’s legacy of racism has come into sharp focus in the weeks of protests following the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody. From Confederate statues to Mount Rushmore, Americans are reexamining the symbols and traditions they elevate and the history behind them.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 2,788,395 — Total deaths: 129,306 — Total recoveries: 790,404 — Total tested: 34,213,497Map.
  3. States: ICU beds in Arizona's hot spot reach near capacity.
  4. Public health: The states where face coverings are mandatory Fauci says it has been a "very disturbing week" for the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S.
  5. Economy: The economy may recover just quickly enough to kill political interest in more stimulus.
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Washington Redskins to review team name amid public pressure

Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The Washington Redskins have announced they will be conducting a review of the team's name after mounting pressure from the public and corporate sponsors.

Why it matters: This review is the first formal step the Redskins are taking since the debate surrounding the name first began. It comes after weeks of discussions between the team and the NFL, the team said.