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NASA has greenlit the building of a new telescope, the Near-Earth Object Surveyor, or NEO Surveyor, in a bid to bolster the Earth's planetary defense by detecting asteroids and comets that could impact Earth with potentially devastating consequences, the space agency explained in a statement.

The NEO Surveyor will be fitted with infrared cameras that can detect Near Earth Objects, track their positions, and calculate their sizes with a degree of accuracy not possible using telescopes here on Earth.

As the NEO Survey project leader, Amy Mainzer, explains in a separate statement by the University of Arizona, "we think there are about 25,000 NEOs large enough to wipe out an area like Southern California. Once they get bigger than about 450 feet in diameter, they can cause severe regional damage. We want to find these, and as many smaller ones as possible."

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