The thought of asteroid impact on Earth is intimidating – one that’s connected with catastrophic devastation in past and have always been a hot topic for fictional stories. Though space agencies are continuously watching the sky in search of potential future impact events, Earth is most definitely not immune to such impact yet. ESA and NASA are now working collaboratively on an asteroid deflection mission to improve our understanding as to how such threat can be tackled. Concepts are being sought for both ground- and space-based investigations, seeking improved understanding of the physics of very high-speed collisions involving both man-made and natural objects in space.
This low-budget transatlantic partnership will involve the joint operations of two small spacecraft sent to intercept a binary asteroid and is being called Asteroid Impact and Deflection mission – AIDA. Mission concept suggests that first a Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft, designed by the US Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory will collide with the smaller of the two asteroids. Meanwhile, ESA’s Asteroid Impact Monitor (AIM) craft will survey these bodies in detail, before and after the collision. The impact should change the pace at which the objects spin around each other, observable from Earth. But AIM’s close-up view will ‘ground-truth’ such observations.
Andrés Gálvez, ESA’s AIDA study manager explains what improves the efficiency of the mission,
“Both missions become better when put together – getting much more out of the overall investment. And the vast amounts of data coming from the joint mission should help to validate various theories, such as our impact modelling.”
Such a mission will definitely improve our understanding of asteroids thereby improving our defense against possible future impacts on the Earth in a manner that won’t need Hollywood-style heroism, but rather a planned and reliable interception of the asteroid(s).
Featured image: ESA
The US-European Asteroid Impact and Deflection mission – AIDA. This innovative but low-budget transatlantic partnership involves the joint operations of two small spacecraft sent to intercept a binary asteroid.
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