The University of Arizona has a long history in the discovery and characterization of NEOs. Two ground-based NEO surveys, the Spacewatch project (Kitt Peak National Observatory, Arizona) and the Catalina Sky Survey (Mt. Lemmon Observatory, Arizona) have detected nearly 50% of all known NEOs to date. Extending this capability to outer space, UA is home to the NEO Surveyor mission as well as the ongoing NEOWISE mission. Both are space-based infrared telescopes that detect and characterize near-Earth objects. NEOWISE is a smaller, Earth-orbiting telescope currently in extended mission operations. NEOWISE serves as a key precursor mission for the new NEO Surveyor, which will greatly expand NASA's ability to find Earth-approaching asteroids and comets.
NEO Surveyor will complement the capabilities of NEOWISE and enable NASA to find NEOs much faster. NEO Surveyor’s flight segment is a space-based observatory of the same name. The NEO Surveyor payload contains an infrared telescope operating in two infrared bands, 4-5 microns and 6-10 microns. With the use of an all-infrared telescope, NEO Surveyor is optimized for the task of finding and characterizing the impact risks posed by potentially hazardous objects, both as individual objects and as populations.