Grant H. Stokes, head of the Aerospace Division at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and J. Scott Stuart, a technical staff member in the Space Control Systems Group, were among the recipients of a 2011 National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Group Appreciation Award. The award was presented to the Near Earth Object Observation Program team, which organized and managed the NASA-initiated effort to detect and catalog at least 90 percent of near-Earth objects (NEO) larger than 1 kilometer in diameter. In addition, the team characterized a sample of these objects.
Stokes' and Stuart’s involvement on the team was through Lincoln Laboratory’s LINEAR (for Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research) program, which operates a wide-field, ground-based electro-optical deep-space surveillance telescope at the Experimental Test Site on the U.S. Air Force’s White Sands Missile Range in Socorro, N.M. LINEAR was one of several discovery teams collaborating on the NEO program.
Using leading-edge imaging technology and innovative change detection techniques, the LINEAR team made a significant contribution to NASA's NEO survey. At the start of the effort, only 552 NEOs were known, almost half of which were estimated to have diameters of 1 kilometer or greater. As of September 2010, 7,203 NEOs have been found, 901 of which are larger than 1 kilometer. The LINEAR program discovered about half of the known large NEOs. NASA’s NEO Observation Program, including LINEAR, now makes more than 98 percent of the worldwide detections and observations of NEOs. The team’s efforts have expanded the world’s understanding of the threat posed to Earth by NEOs and have contributed to the scientific knowledge about the solar system.