January 15, 2013
Asteroid Deflection Missions Underway
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
One mission aims to take a Bruce Willis approach in the movie Armageddon, by deflecting any future asteroids that might be headed towards Earth.
ESA is asking for concepts based on both ground- and space-based investigations that could improve the understanding of the physics of very high-speed collisions involving man-made and natural objects in space.
The space agency said it will be calling on help to guide future studies linked to the Asteroid Impact and Deflection mission (AIDA).
This low-budget transatlantic partnership between ESA and U.S. researchers involves the joint operations of two small spacecraft sent to intercept a binary asteroid.
The first Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft is designed by the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and will collide with the smaller of the two asteroids.
ESA's Asteroid Impact Monitor (AIM) spacecraft will survey these bodies in detail, both before and after the collision.
The impact could help to change the pace at which the objects spin around each other, and AIM's close-up view will "ground-truth" these observations.
“The advantage is that the spacecraft are simple and independent,” Andy Cheng of Johns Hopkins, leading the AIDA project on the US side, said in a statement. “They can both complete their primary investigation without the other one.”
AndrÃ©s GÃ¡lvez, ESA AIDA study manager, said that by working in tandem, the quality and quantity of results will increase greatly.
“Both missions become better when put together — getting much more out of the overall investment," GÃ¡lvez said. “And the vast amounts of data coming from the joint mission should help to validate various theories, such as our impact [modeling].”