NASA's Asteroid Grand Challenge: Strategy, results, and lessons learned

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Space Policy, ISSN: 0265-9646

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Jennifer L. Gustetic; Victoria P. Friedensen; Jason L. Kessler; Shanessa Jackson; James Parr
Social Sciences; Economics, Econometrics and Finance; Earth and Planetary Sciences
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Beginning in 2012, NASA utilized a strategic process to identify broad societal questions, or grand challenges, that are well suited to the aerospace sector and align with national priorities. This effort generated NASA's first grand challenge, the Asteroid Grand Challenge (AGC), a large-scale effort using multi-disciplinary collaborations and innovative engagement mechanisms focused on finding and addressing asteroid threats to human populations. In April 2010, President Barack Obama announced a mission to send humans to an asteroid by 2025. This resulted in the agency's Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) to leverage and maximize existing robotic and human efforts to capture and reroute an asteroid, with the goal of eventual human exploration. The AGC, initiated in 2013, complemented ARM by expanding public participation, partnerships, and other approaches to find, understand, and overcome these potentially harmful asteroids. This paper describes a selection of AGC activities implemented from 2013 to 2017 and their results, excluding those conducted by NASA's Near-Earth Object Observations Program and other organizations. The strategic development of the initiative is outlined as well as initial successes, strengths, and weaknesses resulting from the first four years of AGC activities and approaches. Finally, we describe lesson learned and areas for continued work and study. The AGC lessons learned and strategies could inform the work of other agencies and organizations seeking to conduct a global scientific investigation with matrixed organizational support, multiple strategic partners, and numerous internal and external open innovation approaches and audiences.