A California-based nonprofit group seeking to prevent the Earth from being struck by killer asteroids has announced plans to send an infrared telescope into space to hunt for dangerous near-Earth objects, reports Wired. The B612 Foundation's Sentinel Mission would be the first privately funded deep-space mission, aiming to put a 25-foot telescope into orbit and look for asteroids. Not for space mining, though—the 5.5-year mission aims to catalog asteroids larger than 500 feet in diameter that could possibly hit the Earth. Team members include former astronauts and former NASA officials.
While NASA has already found thousands of asteroids that might endanger the planet, foundation chairman Ed Lu says the mission could expand that number a hundredfold. Of course, saving the Earth doesn't come cheap, so the B612 Foundation needs to raise several hundred million dollars first, but organizers think they can be ready by 2017. “That’s the urgency of this,” says Lu, a former astronaut. “If there is an asteroid out there that may strike in the next 10 or 20 years, then time’s a wastin.'" (Read more Asteroids stories.)