08Sep2019

Europe And US To Try And Deflect An Asteroid

Next week, asteroid researchers and spacecraft engineers from all around the world will gather in Rome to discuss the latest in asteroid defense. The three-day International AIDA Workshop, which will run from Sept. 11th to 13th.

Hera scanning the impact crater on Didymos’ moonlet. Credit: ESA

It will focus on the development of the joint NASA-ESA Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment (AIDA) mission. The purpose of this two-spacecraft system is to deflect the orbit of one of the bodies that make up the binary asteroid Didymos, which orbits between Earth and Mars. While one spacecraft will collide with a binary Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA), the other will observe the impact and survey the crash site in order to gather as much data as possible about this method of asteroid defense.

The target for this joint mission is Didymos, a near-Earth binary asteroid system that consists of a larger asteroid and an orbiting “moonlet”. The main body of this system measures about 780 meters (2,560 ft) in diameter while its moonlet measures about 160 m (525 ft) in diameter. It was selected as part of a careful decision process that sought a deflection target that could provide a maximum scientific return.

Flying the two missions together will greatly magnify their overall knowledge return. Hera will in fact gather essential data to turn this one-off experiment into an asteroid deflection technique applicable to other asteroids. The results returned by Hera, DART, and the other elements of the AIDA mission will greatly inform the efforts of scientists that are committed to developing defenses against asteroids

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