Here's a list of opportunities presented to us that we may consider funding. We may not, so if you have an interest in these area, please contact the folks below directly.

From: Walter Wild <>
Subject: NEO grant

Hello Mr. Kirsch,

I have just read with interest that you are interested in funding NEO
searches. I would be interested in knowing how I can submit a proposal
to you.

At Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay Wisconsin, I have formed a group
of amatuer astronomers called ASSAY (Asteroid Search/Science by Amateurs
at Yerkes) last year. We were givena small grant from the Planetary
Society ($6500) last year to initiate this search. Presently there are
four members of the group, and the search is being conducted using
the 24 inch telescope at Yerkes, though we may at times use a 41 inch
telescope for the program. We desire to obtain a much larger CCD camera to enable us to investigate larger patches in the sky. Our philosophy
in the search is to study about eight one degree fields and to look for
anything that happens to pass through them. That is, given the limited
resources of time and equipment, we feel our best approach is to concentrate
on areas of the sky close to opposition; one patch is near the ecliptic and
the other about 40 degrees above the ecliptic. In this sense our effort
complements other searches.

If you were to accept a proposal from us, the basic level of support
that we would request would be about $10K to enable us to help purchase a
2Kx2K CCD camera (to be built by Mr. Tom Drugge of Fermi Labs), and to support
some other miscellaneous equipment to computerize the telescope and
support the search. Our effort is conducted by volunteers. I am a senior
research associate in the department of Astronomy & Astrophysics at the
University of Chicago (which owns Yerkes Observatory). I hope this email
gets to you, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you,

Walter Wild
(773) 735-7033 (H); 773-702-8747 (W); 773-735-7887 (fax)

P.S. I should have maybe mentioned possibilities for us. We are so starved for
support, that $2,000 will pay for te CCD for the 2Kx2K large area array
camera. I was only seeking some one time support, not a multiyear grant.
If you have any suggestions for other foundations that support NEO search
kinds of activities, I'd appreciate knowing about it. I jumped at this
possibility after I read the Time article since such funding is indeed
so unusual to find (NEO searches); I have not previously found any foundations that fund such work.

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From: "Leon J. Neihouse" <>
To: "''" <>
Cc: "''" <>,
"''" <>
Subject: The Alpha Space Fund
Date: Wed, 16 Dec 1998 16:36:32 -0400

To: Steve Kirsch

A recent article in Time magazine mentioned your interest in the NEO field.

As I am sure you know, about two thousand Near-Earth asteroids have the potential to end civilization as we know it. Primarily as a result of deliberate search programs that have been initiated during the past few years, perhaps 15% of these objects have been located. While none of these pose any immediate threat to the Earth, it is nevertheless as certain as death and taxes that one of the remaining "Civilization-Destroyers" will eventually meet up with our planet.

The Alpha Space Fund, or simply ASF, is a new nonprofit organization that will have raising money - the number one or Alpha prerequisite for solving this impact problem - as its initial objective. ASF will use the funds it acquires to sustain and/or develop non-profit organizations and/or profit-seeking companies that have assistance in solving the impact problem as an express or implied organizational objective.

The first organization ASF has made a commitment to support is the Southwest Institute for Space Research. The Institute, under the leadership of Dr. Alan Hale (the co-discoverer of Comet Hale-Bopp), will oversee the development of a system of telescopes in the Southern Hemisphere designed to assist in the search for Near-Earth Objects.

The Principals have the background and experience necessary to develop a path that will ensure the continued existence of civilization as we know it. Three have degrees from two of the most respected institutions in the world - The United States Naval Academy and MIT.

More information is available on the Internet at If you should visit this site and find the approach of interest, I will be happy to respond to any comments, questions, or concerns you might have.

Best regards,

Leon Neihouse
ASF General Manager

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Date: Thu, 17 Dec 1998 10:48:39 -0700 (MST)
Subject: ASF, Southwest Institute, etc.

Dear Mr. Kirsch,

I am writing you in reference to the e-mail correspondence you have been
having with Leon Neihouse of the Alpha Space Fund (ASF). The ASF has
agreed to help support the near-Earth asteroid research work I am starting
up with the Southwest Institute, and I'd like to take a moment to acquaint
you with what I'm doing and the rationale behind it.

In your reply to Mr. Neihouse I presume you meant Jim Scotti, of the
Spacewatch program being conducted at Kitt Peak in Arizona. I've known
Jim for several years and consider him a good friend. Spacewatch is an
excellent program and has produced a number of fascinating discoveries
since it went on-line in its present format some eight years ago -- most
notable, perhaps, being the asteroid 1997 XF11 which got a lot of media
attention earlier this year when it appeared it might be making a *very*
close approach to Earth thirty years from now.

As good a program as it is, however, Spacewatch has its limitations. It
is a very "deep" program, i.e., it is looking for very dim objects, and
it has been very successful in this effort. The amount of sky coverage,
however, is rather small. In contrast, the LINEAR program, which went
on-line back in March of this year here in New Mexico, doesn't go anywhere
near as "deep" as Spacewatch but is able to obtain much greater sky
coverage. As a result, LINEAR has been producing discoveries of near-Earth
asteroids by the ton, and in the nine months it has been operating it has
found many more such objects that Spacewatch has in the past eight years.

[start over; my finger hit the "return" key inadvertently]

Both Spacewatch and LINEAR suffer from the limitation that they are
utilizing "shared" instruments, and consequently they are only able to
utilize a certain amount of time for their search efforts. LINEAR, for
example, is only operating ten nights a month, and I think the number is
similar for Spacewatch. There is thus a significant amount of time that
these very capable programs are *not* devoting to the near-Earth object
search effort that dedicated instruments would be able to utilize.

Furthermore, Spacewatch, LINEAR, and the other programs currently
operating, are strictly survey efforts, i.e., they are in the sole
business of looking for previously-undiscovered objects. The follow-up
work after discovery, which is left to "others," is nowhere near as
glamorous but is absolutely critical to helping obtain the orbtital
information that allows us to track these objects in the future. The
recovery of the various objects when they make their future visits to
the earth's vicinity one, two, four, etc., years after their initial
discovery is likewise being left to "others."

This is an area where the Southwest Institute can make some very important
contributions. We essentially have the necessary equipent -- about 95%
complete now -- and as soon as i get the remaining parts in (which should
be any day now) I will start configuring the system to be able to obtain
these crucial follow-up and recovery observations. Even though the
telescope I will be using for this project is fairly small, with the CCD
system that I'll be using with it I should be able to track most, if not
all, of the near-Earth asteroids being discovered by LINEAR.

The Southwest Institute is also incorporating a strong educational
component to this project. By use of the Internet and remote-controlled
operations I'll be opening up the data collection effort to participation
by school students -- who'll be learning how this process works by
actually doing it rather than just hearing about it, and they'll have the
satisfaction of knowing they're making contributions that might save the
planet someday -- and I'm in the process of developing curricula to
accompany instruction in this entire field of study.

The next step in this process for the Institute is somewhat larger and is
something I believe Mr. Neihouse has already mentioned, i.e., establishing
a search effort in the southern hemisphere. All the search programs
currently operating are based in the northern hemisphere; at this time
there are *no* search programs based south of the Equator. Until recently,
there was one capable program being conducted at Siding Spring Observatory
in New South Wales, which was quite productive despite the fact it was
running on a literal shoestring and was piggy-backed onto another program;
unfortunately, the Australian government pulled the funding for this
effort at the end of 1996. There is a significant part of the sky that is
not being examined because it is inaccessible from northern latitudes, there
are good people -- several of whom I know personally -- in the southern
hemisphere who are capable of maintaining a good search program, and there
are good sites to do it (Siding Spring, for one). I'd like to help provide
them the means to do so, and in the process establish a southern-hemisphere
branch for the Institute (there's lot of good sky down there). Once this
effort is underway I'd like to start looking at other sites, both in
the northern and southern hemispheres, to continue the search efforts;
it does get cloudy from time to time in the places where current programs
are operating. (For example, hardly any near-Earth objects are discovered
by Spacewatch and LINEAR during July and August, since that's our rainy
season in this part of the world and clear nights are not very common.)

I hope this helps you understand what I'm about and what I'd like to do.
We need funding to carry this out, of course, which is one reason why
I'm endorsing the effort by Mr.Neihouse and the ASF; with the fickle nature
of government spending being what it is I'd like to see funding come from
the private and business sectors, since I believe these funding sources
will be more stable in both the short and long terms. If I can be of
any assistance please feel free to contact me.


Alan Hale
Southwest Institute for Space Research


From: "Leon J. Neihouse" <>
To: "'Steve Kirsch'" <>
Cc: "''" <>,
"''" <>
Subject: RE: The Alpha Space Fund
Date: Thu, 17 Dec 1998 11:27:28 -0400

To: Steve Kirsch

Thanks for your response.

We visited your Internet site and also want to thank you for including us under the heading of "Charity projects submitted to us to consider." We then used your evaluation criteria and arrived at a score of 82 for our project.

We want to stress the below "value-added" contributions we bring to solving the asteroid/comet impact problem.

1. The established professionals are concentrating solely on Earth-based detecting sites. This requires that all NEOs must first come into the field of vision of a fixed telescope and puts an upper limit, independent of money spent and number/distribution of observing locations, of 10 to 15 years to complete the survey. To decrease this time further will require that detection platforms be moved into the NEO stream. Placing survey satellites in an orbit opposite to NEO orbits will permit a comprehensive survey to be completed as quickly as theoretically possible, perhaps as soon as one to two years. Granted, this approach will be an order of magnitude more expensive than Earth-based searches but ASF believes that the potential reward (saving civilization as we know it) is worth the additional cost.

2. ASF will setup a global network of local information centers. A model of the solar system showing the distribution of NEOs and a continuously running video demonstrating the effects of an impact will teach the general public about the problem and the need to solve it as soon as possible. Brochures, books, and magazine articles giving amplifying information will be available.

3. ASF will seek to remove future funding needed to respond to the NEO threat from the political and charitable arenas by placing it on a business foundation. This is a much more effective way to ensure the impact problem will receive the perpetual attention that it must be given.

If this additional information makes our project more appealing, we will be happy to mail you our Request for Donations for your further review.

Best regards,

Leon Neihouse
ASF General Manager

Steve Kirsch home page
Charity home page