NASA investing $5 million in asteroid detection - WFSB 3 Connecticut

NASA investing $5 million in asteroid detection

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ATLAS ATLAS
PHOENIX (CBS5/AP) -

Following last week's fireball in the skies over Russia, NASA says they're investing $5 million in early asteroid detection.

"I think it's a great idea that the astronomers and the government are collectively investing in asteroid detection.  Anything is better than doing nothing," said Steve Kates, also known as "Dr. Sky."

The system is called asteroid terrestrial-impact last alert system, or ATLAS for short.  It's a collection of telescopes about the size of outdoor garbage cans that would scan the sky a few times a night.

"This group of astronomers and the government are proposing a system that will at least give us even as early as a day's warning, maybe in some cases a few hours, of what we call a city-buster type asteroid.  Maybe something a little bit larger than what came over Russia last week," said Dr. Sky.

Can this system do for space forecasting what Doppler radar has done for weather forecasting?

"Being able to give us a general location of where the asteroid is going to hit is fine. But still, we're not solving the problem of the great mass, the great destructive power, upwards of mega-tonnage, and that's something very serious," added Dr. Sky.

With reports of hundreds of people injured as a direct or indirect result of the meteor in Russia, Dr. Sky says the most important function of asteroid detection is saving lives.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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