A week after the Chelyabinsk meteor and asteroid 2012 DA14 flyby, which got the attention of some members of Congress, two other key members of Congress are expressing interest in the issue of tracking near Earth objects (NEOs) and mitigating any impact risks, although it remains to be seen if this interest will translate into additional funding for NASA NEO activities or other actions.
On Wednesday, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), a current member and former chairman of the House Science Committee, sent a letter to NASA administrator Charles Bolden asking for information on NASA’s NEO activities. Sensenbrenner asked Bolden to provide answers within a month to several questions about NASA’s efforts to track “cosmic objects” (the phrase he uses throughout his letter to refer to NEOs) as well as any “plans designed to eliminate the threats posed by cosmic objects on a collision course with Earth” and the required lead time. “We would be remiss if we did not use the recent events as an opportunity to survey our current capabilities and assess how we can better use limited resources to identify potential threats,” he wrote.
Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS), chairman of the House Science Committee’s space subcommittee, tells the Huntsville Times that upcoming hearings on NEO impact risks will involve “tough questions” about what NASA should be doing. “Are we focusing our dollars in the right place? Should we be worrying about Mars or distant planets, or should we be worried about the things that could disrupt our way of life on Earth?” he told told the newspaper during a visit to the Marshall Space Flight Center.