NASA And ESA Team Up To Defend Earth Against Asteroid Collisions

AIDA team-up aims to test asteroid deflection

AIDA team-up aims to test asteroid deflection

Researchers and engineers from the two agencies and beyond are meeting in Rome next week to discuss the idea, which they want to prove is a viable method of planetary defence.

NASA and the European Space Agency are teaming up for an ambitious mission to use spacecraft to deflect an asteroid. Its main body measures about 780 m across; the smaller body is a "moonlet" about 160 m in diameter. A future deflection system may have to knock far larger and faster asteroids out of their collision courses.

The target is the smaller of two bodies in the "double Didymos asteroids" that are in orbit between Earth and Mars.

According to NASA, which keeps an up to date database of all known NEOs, no known asteroid poses a significant risk of impact within the coming century but the fact that 2019 QS was only spotted a week ago shows our planetary early warning defenses could do with some.

NASA's DART spacecraft is already below building, with a launch deliberate for the summer time of 2021 with the objective of reaching the asteroid goal in September 2022.

The second spacecraft, ESA's Hera, will then survey the DART's crash website and collect knowledge on the consequences of the collision on the asteroid's trajectory, which might then be used to refine the deflection method in case of an actual asteroid menace. DART will collide with the asteroid in September 2022 at a speed of 6.6 km/s.

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An Italian-made miniature CubeSat called LICIACube would travel alongside to capture the moment of impact.

Researchers will try to improve the efficiency of the collision using the results provided by Hera "to turn this grand-scale experiment into a technique which could be repeated as needed in the event of a real threat".

It's hoped the Hera mission can begin in October 2024, with its journey to the asteroid taking around two years.

'However flying the 2 missions collectively will significantly amplify their general data return.

Hera will also deploy a pair of mini satellites of its own to carry out the very first radar probe of an asteroid, which could gather information about its terrain.

Mr Carnelli added that the Hera mission would allow new deep space mini satellites - which are called CubeSats - to be tested, and provide the ESA with valuable experience of low-gravity operations. "Due to the relatively small mass and gravities of these bodies, the smaller asteroid orbits its parent at a comparatively low velocity of a few centimetres per second, making it feasible to shift its orbit in a measurable way - something which would not be achievable so precisely with a lone asteroid in a much more rapidly moving solar orbit", ESA explained.

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