In her book 2012: Science or Superstition, Alexandra Bruce writes:
We’ve been told since childhood that an asteroid extinguished the mighty dinosaurs in a single day. When we look out at our pockmarked celestial neighbors, we know that something similar could happen here again. Recent discoveries at the bottom of the seas seem to bear this out and the “Planet X” rumors probably stem from these new scientific observations. “In 1980, only 86 Near Earth Asteroids and comets were known to exist…[today] NASA estimates that there are perhaps 20,000 potentially hazardous asteroids and comets in the general vicinity of Earth.” So far, the technology to adequately view and track these potential threats simply didn’t exist. With the November 2009 launch of NASA’s “WISE”: Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer, it is hoped that we’ll be able to see any hazards that we’ve missed.
NASA was a little late, but on December 14, 2009 at 14:09 GMT WISE was successfully launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The rocket deposited WISE into a polar orbit 326 miles above Earth.
In a cheap but cute video, NASA scientist Dr. Amy Mainzer describes how the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) will provide a map to the universe’s hidden treasures, not to mention warning us of impending impact with Near Earth Objects:
[cross posted from 2012SOS.com]