Near-Earth Objects: NASA and Planetary Defense

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Near-Earth Objects (NEOs). NASA courtesy photo.

“The NEO Hazard: NASA and Planetary Defense” will be presented by Rob Landis and Dr. Kelly Fast on Saturday, Mar. 11, at 7 p.m. at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center.

Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are leftover bits of solar system jetsam and flotsam that have been nudged into orbit around the Earth, allowing them to come within our close vicinity.

NASA recently established a new office to coordinate planetary defense-related activities to mitigate the hazard of potential impact by such asteroids.

The public is invited to learn more about possible asteroid impacts and NASA protection efforts at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center’s upcoming astronomy talk.


The creation of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) is a logical extension of NASA’s NEO Observations programs, which began nearly two decades ago. Since that program’s inception in 1998, NASA-funded endeavors have discovered more than 98% of all new NEOs.

Observatories on Hawai‘i Island and Maui are key to these discoveries and help us better understand the makeup of these celestial vagabonds in our neighborhood.

Rob Landis. Courtesy photo.

In their presentation, Dr. Fast and Landis will share current efforts to detect, track and characterize comets and asteroids that come close to Earth. They will also discuss the steps that NASA plans to take to deflect a potential asteroid on an impact trajectory.

Landis is currently assigned to the NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., and is an engineer within the Planetary Science Division, Science Mission Directorate.


He’s had a varied career on several NASA space missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope, the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer, the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn (and Titan), the Mars Exploration Rovers and the International Space Station.

He received his B.S. in astrophysics from Michigan State University and his M.S. in space studies from the University of North Dakota.

Dr. Fast manages the Near-Earth Object Observations Program in NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, where she is also the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) Program Scientist.

Dr. Fast earned her Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Maryland.

Dr. Kelly Fast. Courtesy photo.


She studied the atmospheres of Mars, Jupiter and Titan as an astronomer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center before coming to NASA Headquarters in 2011.

General admission tickets are $10; $8 for members (member-level discounts apply). Pre-purchase tickets at ‘Imiloa’s front desk or by phone at (808) 932-8901. For more information, visit

About ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center

The ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai‘i is a world-class center for informal science education located on the University of Hawai‘i campus. Its centerpiece is a 12,000-square-foot exhibit hall, showcasing astronomy and Hawaiian culture as parallel journeys of human exploration guided by the light of the stars. The visitor experience is amplified with programming using ‘Imiloa’s 3D full dome planetarium and 9 acres of native landscape gardens.

The center welcomes approximately 100,000 visitors each year, including 10,000-plus schoolchildren on guided field trips and other educational programs.

‘Imiloa is located at 600 ‘Imiloa Place in Hilo, off of Komohana and Nowelo Streets at the UH Hilo Science and Technology Park.

For more information, visit or call (808) 932-8901.

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