NASA is finding asteroids, including those that might threaten our home planet, and sending humans to explore one. The agency is engaging the public in the Asteroid Grand Challenge to find all asteroid threats to human population and know what to do about them, accelerating NASA's existing planetary defense work. NASA is also developing a first-ever mission to identify, capture and redirect a near-Earth asteroid to a stable orbit around the moon, where astronauts will explore it in the 2020s, returning with samples. This Asteroid Redirect Mission is part of NASA’s plan to advance the new technologies and spaceflight experience needed for humans to pioneer Mars in the 2030s.
NASA wants to know what the public thinks about how the agency is accomplishing both the Asteroid Grand Challenge and the Asteroid Redirect Mission, what inspires them about exploration, and what they think is valuable in the mission to find, capture, move and explore an asteroid.
Last year, the agency asked for ideas on how to engage the public directly in the Asteroid Initiative. One highly-rated response to the Asteroid Initiative Request for Information was the Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology, a consortium of respected universities, science centers and non-governmental organizations. After a presentation at the 2013 Asteroid Initiative Workshop, NASA chose to award the ECAST consortium a cooperative agreement to conduct peer-to-peer deliberations and solicit citizen input on NASA's asteroid initiative.
ECAST gives voice to the American public, providing NASA with diverse, informed feedback through two in-person events and a virtual forum. 100 attendees will be selected for each in-person event, with an emphasis on a diversity of voices in those two locations. The virtual forum will be open to all interested participants. The results will be shared with NASA and the public following the conclusion of all three forums.