Steve Chesley and Paul Chodas, from our office, provided very accurate predictions for the time and place of this impact, and NASA sent out announcements of this impending impact a few hours in advance of the impact itself. This announcement was sent to a number of agencies, as well as the White House.
CNN: You have a pretty accomplished career thus far. What still excites you about what you do every day?
Yeomans: Mother Nature keeps firing shots across Earth's bow in the form of near-Earth objects, and that keeps my days busy. We often have to provide predictions, request additional observations and inform the public about each new object that will approach the Earth. For a few of these objects, we often cannot immediately rule out a future Earth impact until new observations are used to improve the object's orbit.
Before NASA's comprehensive program on near-Earth objects began in the mid-1990's, we were blissfully unaware of the objects whizzing by the Earth. Now we are looking [at] and tracking these objects. The chances of our being taken by surprise has been reduced substantially.
There's more to be done, of course, but NASA's near-Earth object program has substantially reduced the risk from a strike by a near-Earth object. Now we know about most of the large near-Earth objects and we've determined that none of these known objects represent a near-term threat.
The field of near-Earth objects is such an interesting topic, from a number of points of view, that I always find this work exciting. I look forward to going "to work."
CNN: What's the next big achievement in space you'd like to see?
Yeomans: In April 2010, President Obama requested that a NASA goal should be to carry out a human exploration of a near-Earth asteroid as a stepping stone to the far more difficult human exploration of Mars. That is, the technologies and techniques required for a human exploration of Mars could be carried out at a near-Earth object and this type of mission would only require a trip time of a few month -- rather than a few years. One of our goals is to find a suitable target [asteroid] for a mission of this type.
Photos: All about asteroids
CNN: What advice would you offer to aspiring scientists?
Yeomans: That's an easy one. Find a topic that fascinates you, then pursue it with bulldog tenacity. That way, you'll love your job and never have a single day of "work." For myself, I can't believe I'm being paid to have this much fun.