Bay Area Man Has Plan to Save the Planet

The B612 is an infrared telescope designed to orbit the sun and search for asteroids.

By Marianne Favro
|  Tuesday, Oct 29, 2013  |  Updated 6:06 PM PDT
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Bay Area Man Has Plan to Save the Planet

Right now an asteroid may be headed right for earth and we wouldn’t even know it.

Former astronaut Ed Lu wants to change that. He says his job in Menlo Park is to save the planet.

“Preventing asteroid impacts is the only global natural disaster we can do something about,” Lu said.

Lu founded B612, a non-profit foundation working to build the Sentinel an infrared telescope designed to orbit the sun and search for asteroids.

The goal is to launch the Sentinel from Florida in 2018.

From its position 30 to 170 million miles from earth the telescope will detect asteroids that may be headed for earth.

Giving scientists decades of warning and a chance to change their course with a simple one millimeter nudge from a spacecraft.

“If you make it arrive a couple minutes late is misses the earth,” Lu says Right now Lu is working on raising $250 million to build the Sentinel and another $200 million to launch it.

“I think its a responsible amount to spend to protect the future of humanity,” Lu says.

The alternative is to rely on NASA which he says only spots about 1,000 asteroids that may hit earth when there are actually a million out there.

But with the Sentinel? “You can spot a charcoal briquette in the black sky ten times the distance from LA to New York,” Lu said.

Lus says it’s not a matter of if, but when.

Even a small asteroid can cause massive destruction.

Lu says an asteroid half the size of Candlestick Park can hit with more energy than every bomb used in U.S. history combined.

Which is why this astronaut who completed two space shuttle missions says the world can no longer continue to fly blind.

He says wake up and track the asteroids.

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