Planetary Defense Coordination Office

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Planetary Defense Coordination Office
Planetary Defense Coordination Office seal.png
Agency overview
FormedJanuary 2016 (2016-01)
JurisdictionUnited States
HeadquartersWashington, D.C.
MottoHic Servare Diem (Latin)
"Here To Save The Day"[1]
Agency executive
  • Lindley Johnson[2], Planetary Defense Officer
Parent departmentScience Mission Directorate, Planetary Science Division
Parent agencyNASA

The Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) is a planetary defense organization established in January 2016 within NASA's Planetary Science Division of the Science Mission Directorate.[3]

Its mission is to look for and catalogue near-Earth objects such as comets and asteroids and potentially hazardous objects that could impact Earth and to help the U.S. government prepare for a potential impact event (and coordinate efforts to mitigate and deflect potential threats if one is detected).[4]


In 2005, the U.S. Congress passed the NASA Authorization Act, which, in part, tasked NASA with finding and cataloguing at least 90% of all near-Earth objects that are 140 meters or larger by 2020.[5][6] However, that goal was clearly not being met by NASA's Near Earth Object Observations Program, which a 2014 report by the NASA Office of Inspector General pointed out.[7] In June 2015, NASA and National Nuclear Security Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy, which had been studying impact events on their own, signed an agreement to work in cooperation.[8]

In January 2016, NASA officially announced the establishment of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), appointing Lindley Johnson to lead it as Planetary Defense Officer.[4][2][9] The PDCO was given the job of cataloging and tracking potentially hazardous near-Earth objects (NEO), such as asteroids and comets, larger than 30–50 meters in diameter (compare to the 20-meter Chelyabinsk meteor that hit Russia in 2013) and coordinating an effective threat response and mitigation effort.[10][11]

It has been a part of several key NASA missions, including OSIRIS-REx,[12] NEOWISE, and Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). For NEOWISE, NASA worked with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, to investigate various impact-threat scenarios in order to learn the best approach to the threat of an incoming impactor. The office will continue to use the polar orbiting infrared telescope NEOWISE to detect any potentially hazardous objects.[13]

Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), a joint project between NASA and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, is the first planetary defense mission of NASA.[14] In November 2021, the DART spacecraft was launched with the goal of seeing if it could "alter an asteroid's path, a technique that may be used to defend the planet in the future".[5]

In popular culture[edit]

The 2021 movie Don't Look Up is about a "planet killer" comet, in which the Planetary Defense Officer is played by Rob Morgan.[15] The PDCO chief Lindley Johnson vetted an early draft of the screenplay over two years before the film's 2021 release.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "How a real NASA patch anchors Netflix's 'Don't Look Up' in reality". Retrieved January 15, 2022.
  2. ^ a b "PDCO Organization". NASA. NASA. Retrieved December 25, 2021.
  3. ^ Sarkar, Monica (January 13, 2016). "NASA Planetary Defense Office set up to save Earth". CNN. Retrieved December 25, 2021.
  4. ^ a b David, Leonard (January 11, 2016). "NASA creates office to coordinate protection against asteroids". Christian Science Monitor.
  5. ^ a b Roulette, Joey (November 24, 2021). "NASA Launches New Mission: Crash Into Asteroid, Defend Planet Earth". The New York Times. Retrieved December 25, 2021.
  6. ^ Jonah Engel Bromwich (April 19, 2017). "Asteroid Misses Earth Narrowly, by Cosmic Standards". The New York Times. Retrieved December 25, 2021.
  7. ^ Martin, Paul K. (September 15, 2014). NASA’s Efforts to Identify Near-Earth Objects and Mitigate Hazards (PDF). NASA Office of Inspector General. Retrieved December 25, 2021.
  8. ^ Broad, William J. (June 18, 2015). "Agencies, Hoping to Deflect Comets and Asteroids, Step Up Earth Defense". The New York Times. Retrieved December 25, 2021.
  9. ^ David, Leonard (January 5, 2021). "Defending Earth against dangerous asteroids: Q&A with NASA's Lindley Johnson".
  10. ^ "Planetary Defense Coordination Office". NASA. December 22, 2015. Retrieved January 14, 2016. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  11. ^ Templeton, Graham (January 12, 2016). "NASA is opening a new office for planetary defense". ExtremeTech. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  12. ^ "OSIRIS-REx". NASA. April 14, 2021. Retrieved December 25, 2021.
  13. ^ Laguipo, Angela (January 16, 2016). "This Is How NASA's Planetary Defense Office Will Protect Planet Earth From Asteroid Collisions". Tech Times. Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  14. ^ "Double Asteroid Redirection Test". Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Retrieved February 18, 2021. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  15. ^ Tyler Austin Harper (December 22, 2021). "Silicon Valley Won't Save Us". Slate. Retrieved December 25, 2021.
  16. ^ Kluger, Jeffrey (December 21, 2021). "Breaking Down the Mostly Real Science Behind Don't Look Up". Time. Retrieved December 25, 2021.

External links[edit]