Company Press Release
Steamboat Springs, CO - SpaceDev chairman James William Benson today announced that Roy Tucker of Tucson, AZ became the first winner in the $5,000 "Benson Prize for the Amateur Discovery of Near Earth Asteroids" competition.
The Benson Prize was announced at the American Astronomical Society meeting June 10, and Mr. Tucker, using a camera-equipped 14-inch telescope in his backyard, became the second amateur to ever discover a near earth asteroid, and the first winner of one of the ten $500 Benson Prizes.
Mr. Tucker began looking for earth-approaching objects in May, and was pleased to find a near earth asteroid so quickly. Mr. Tucker plans to use the Benson Prize money to help buy a better camera for his telescope.
Mr. Tucker first spotted the object on June 28. Additional observations came from observers in the Czech Republic, Australia, Italy and the U.S. By the morning of July 2 the orbit computations were considered secure. The object was designated 1997 MW1. The discovery was confirmed by the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center on July 3.
SpaceDev, LLC is a commercial space exploration company, and will announce in September details of its premier venture, the first unmanned spacecraft to another planetary body. Mr. Benson, a geologist and native of Kansas City, sold his computer companies in McLean, VA in 1995, and founded SpaceDev early this year. For more information about the Benson Prize, and how to discover asteroids, contact Diane Murphy, 703.893.0740 or visit www.skypub.com/benson/prize.html.