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NASA Inspector General Blasts Asteroid Detection Program

CAPE CANAVERAL (CBSMiami/AP) - Dangerous asteroids aren't the only thing NASA should worry about.

The space agency's inspector general released a report on Monday blasting NASA's Near Earth Objects program.

The program is meant to hunt and catalog comets, asteroids and large fragments of these objects that pass within 28 million miles of Earth. It was formed with the intention to protect the planet against these possible dangers.

Most near-Earth objects harmlessly disintegrate before reaching Earth's surface. There exceptions, such as the nearly 60-foot meteor that exploded over Russia in 2013, causing considerable damage.

In a 44-page report, Inspector General Paul Martin said the Near Earth Objects program needs to be better organized and managed, with a bigger staff.

John Grunsfeld, NASA's science mission chief and a former astronaut agreed with Martin. Grunsfeld promised the problems would be fixed.

For nearly a decade, the report noted, NASA has been tracking near-Earth objects bigger than 460 feet across. The goal was to catalog 90 percent by 2020.

The space agency has discovered and plotted the orbits of more than 11,000 near-Earth objects since 1998, an estimated 10 percent. It does not expect to meet the 2020 deadline.

The program has insufficient oversight, Martin's office concluded, and no established milestones to track progress. In addition, NASA needs to do a better job of overseeing the various observatories searching for near-Earth objects, and teaming up with other U.S. and international agencies, the report said.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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