February 12th, 2013
01:13 PM ET

One man’s bold quest to save the Earth from asteroids

Editors Note: Ed Lu is a former NASA astronaut and current CEO of the B612 Foundation. His goal is to build a space telescope that will detect possibly cataclysmic asteroids headed for Earth. Watch more about Ed Lu’s incredible mission this Sunday 2:30 P.M. E.T. (all-new time!) on “The Next List.”

He calls it the biggest environmental project imaginable. Ed Lu believes one of the biggest threats to the planet isn’t even on the Earth, it’s in space. Asteroids.

Ed Lu says asteroids hit earth all the time.  “Really small ones are just the shooting stars you see when you look up in the sky,” says Lu. “Larger ones, like the one that hit Tunguska in Siberia, those hit about every couple hundred years.” In 1908 an asteroid about 130 feet wide hit Tunguska Siberia with a force that was 1000 times stronger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It totally destroyed an area the size of the San Francisco bay area. They happen more frequently than we realize – and there are no guarantees that the next one won’t hit a city.  “There is about a 50 percent chance in your lifetime that another explosion of that size is going to happen somewhere on earth,” says Lu.

And here’s the really scary part: right now we’re only able to detect about one percent of the asteroids that are actually orbiting near Earth. The reality, says Lu, is that there are 100 times more asteroids than that.

“That’s about a million near Earth asteroids that are larger than the one that hit in Tunguska in 1908,” he said.

But Lu has a solution.

He is building one of the most powerful space telescopes in the world, called The Sentinel. It will launch in 2018 and orbit the sun, which means it will be between 30 million and 170 million miles from Earth. To put it in perspective, that’s about 500,000 times further from Earth than the Hubble space telescope.

“Over a six-and-a-half year period, it’s going to scan the Earth’s orbit multiple times … and track about a half a million asteroids,” says Lu. “So each month, it’s going to discover about 10,000 asteroids, which is more than all the other telescopes throughout history combined… it’ll do that every month.”

It’s an extraordinary mission. Lu founded the B612 Foundation, a non-profit organization named after the asteroid in the book, “The Little Prince.” He then brought on some of the best and brightest in the aerospace industry to build The Sentinel. The price tag will be a few hundred million dollars, but Lu thinks that’s nothing. “Universities raise that all the time to build a new chemistry building,” he said.

Lu is in the process of building a telescope that he thinks could one day save planet Earth, and he is incredibly optimistic about its future.

“I feel like we’ve been offered the chance to positively change the course of humanity. And how can you turn that down?” said Lu. “I mean, if you are lucky, once in your lifetime, will you ever get a chance like that. And so, we feel very blessed that we are here at this right time when we can do this.”

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Filed under: Science • Space • Tech • The Next List • Video
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. In home Personal Training

    So many things can destroy us. What are we supposed to do about this. Right now we’re only able to detect about one percent of the asteroids that are actually orbiting near Earth. We all need to step it up and get on the right page.

    April 6, 2014 at 12:15 am | Reply
  2. Grisel Bjornson

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    November 3, 2013 at 10:35 pm | Reply
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    May 19, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Reply
  5. Виктор Жила

    Я считаю проект г-на Ed Lu полезным, т.к. он направлен на предупреждение об опасности для спасения людей.

    February 17, 2013 at 4:08 am | Reply
  6. Zebulun

    Reply to this one instead

    He is trying to save the Earth from asteroids, that is very foolish. GOD is not going to allow that to happen, he's destroying this Earth with fire. He's already destroyed the Earth with water, when giants walked and ruled the Earth. In the days of Noah it was not a small flood, but the entire Earth was full of water. Noah was practically in the heavens. This sciencist is wasting his time. These scientist try to pretend their GOD, thats why GOD is angry with them, and hates them. This is all written in the Bible. Jeremiah 31:37, Job 9:24, and Romans 9:13. The Meteors and fireballs are signs of the end. The so-called UFOs are the Highest charriots. Zechariah 5:1&2, Jeremiah 4:13, 2 Kings 2:11&12. This world is going to change soon, GOD is angry with the rulers of the Earth, he hates them in fact, and calls them wicked. Job 9:24, Romans 9:13. In time, Russia is going to bomb and destroy America. Its all a prophecy; all Biblical prophecy come to pass. My mental health is fine, I'm not crazy, but a messenger of the LORD. Trust me, when CHRIST returns the world will be shocked... he's a "black" man! (Revelations 1:14 & 15, Daniel 10:6)

    I am not affiliated with this group, but this is a great video, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kbcx2aAyccE
    If I had to chose a group to be affiliated with, it would be the ISUPK

    I am voicing my opinion, that is all, a messenger of God. I am not a christian, muslim, or any other false belief. I am myself. Everyone must know what will happen in the coming years. Matthews 15:24.

    "For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist." (Luke 21:15, 1611 KJV)

    February 16, 2013 at 9:03 pm | Reply
    • SC

      Go away. You don't belong here.

      February 16, 2013 at 11:54 pm | Reply
    • marlene

      @zebulun i think you fell of your rocker! Just cause there is a god doesn't mean we can't protect ourselves
      Would you leave your door open for thief's and say god will protect me from them?
      Seriously wrong thread, wrong site! This is not a religion forum but a common sense topic to protect our humanity.

      February 18, 2013 at 7:01 pm | Reply
  7. Zebulun

    He is trying to save the Earth from asteroids, that is very foolish. GOD is not going to allow that to happen, he's destroying this Earth with fire. He's already destroyed the Earth with water, when giants walked and ruled the Earth. In the days of Noah, it was not a small flood, but the entire Earth was fill of water. Noah was practically in the heavens. He is wasting his time. these scientist try to pretend their GOD, thats why he is angry with them, and hates them. This is all written in the Bible. Job 9:24, Romans 9:13. The Meteors and fireballs are signs of the end. The so-called UFOs is the Highest charriots. Zechariah 5:1&2, Jeremiah 4:13, 2 Kings 2:11&12. This world is going to change soon, GOD is angry with the rulers of the Earth, he hates them in fact, and calls them wicked. In time, Russia is going to bomb and destroy America. Its all a prophecy; all Biblical prophecy come to pass. My mental health is fine, I'm not crazy, but a messenger of the LORD. Trust me, when CHRIST returns the world will be shocked... he's a "black" man! (Revelations 1:14 & 15, Daniel 10:6)

    I am not affiliated with this group, but this is a great video, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kbcx2aAyccE
    If I had to chose a group to be affiliated with, it would be the ISUPK

    I am voicing my opinion, that is all, a messenger of God. I am not a christian, muslim, or any other false belief. I am myself. Everyone must know what will happen in the coming years.

    February 16, 2013 at 8:56 pm | Reply
  8. Luis Melendez

    Excellent. A real life saving mission, possibly all life.
    The best NASA can to do is to fund it.
    Pass the hat, I'm in.

    February 14, 2013 at 5:39 pm | Reply

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