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The B612 Foundation is a private foundation dedicated to protecting the Earth from asteroid strikes. As of 2002[update], the initial goal was to "significantly alter the orbit of an asteroid in a controlled manner by 2015". The current nearterm goal is to design and build an asteroid-finding space telescope and then launch it in the mid-2010s.
The B612 project grew out of a one-day workshop on asteroid deflection organized by Piet Hut and Ed Lu at NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, on October 20, 2001. Participants Rusty Schweickart, Clark Chapman, Piet Hut, and Ed Lu established the B612 Foundation on October 7, 2002.
Schweickart, who as of October 2010[update] is the chairman of the board, was an early public face of the foundation. The board of directors is rounded out by Chapman, Hut, Lu, Daniel David Durda (eponym of 6141 Durda and another participant of the October 2001 workshop) and Geoffrey Baehr (former chief networking officer at Sun Microsystems and former partner at U.S. Venture Partners).
As of April 2013[update], B612 is attempting to raise approximately $450 million dollars in total to fund the total development and launch cost of Sentinel, at a rate of some $30 to $40 million per year.
The foundation is named for the home asteroid of the eponymous hero of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince. Also inspired by The Little Prince is an asteroid discovered in 1993, though not identified as posing any threat to Earth impact, named 46610 Bésixdouze: The numerical part is the hexadecimal number 'B612' translated to decimal, while the textual part is French for "B six twelve".
The B612 Foundation is a California 501(c)(3) non-profit, private foundation. Financial contributions to the B612 Foundation are tax-exempt. Its principal offices are in Mountain View, California; they were previously located in Tiburon, California.
In the aftermath of the 2013 Russian meteor event—where an approximately 20 metres (66 ft)-diameter asteroid entered Earth's atmosphere and became a brilliant superbolide meteor before exploding in an air burst over Chelyabinsk, Russia, at a height of about 23 km (14 mi),—the B612 foundation experienced a "surge of interest in projects to detect asteroids before they strike Earth" and "an increase in donations."
The Sentinel program is the cornerstone of the Foundation's efforts. The infrared telescope will be launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket and sent to its position in a Venusian orbit around the Sun. The Sentinel's mission is to catalog 90% of asteroids with diameters larger than 140 metres (460 ft), though they also plan to map smaller asteroids as well. December 2016 is the expected launch date, with initiation of data transfer for on-Earth processing of data anticipated no later than 6 months afterwards.