Asteroid Mission Targets Didymos In 2022
February 23, 2013

ESA Selects Target For AIDA Asteroid Deflection Project

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

In the wake of the recent meteor explosion above Russia, the European Space Agency (ESA) has announced the selection of a target for their proposed Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA).

The AIDA mission, which is a joint project headed up by European and American astronomers, will attempt to intercept asteroid Didymos, which the ESA says is a “binary,” featuring two asteroids — one approximately 800 meters across, one approximately 150 meters across — orbiting around each other.

The plan is for the two small spacecraft to intercept Didymos when it passes within 11 million kilometers of Earth in 2022, officials from the agency revealed in a statement Friday.

One probe -- the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) — will smash into the smaller asteroid at speeds of roughly 6.25 kilometers per second while the other — the Asteroid Impact Monitor (AIM) — records the results.

“One effect would be a change in the orbital ballet of the two objects. AIDA is not intended to show how we could deflect an asteroid that threatens Earth but it would be a first step,” ESA officials said, adding that they had been discussing possible targets with their international colleagues before settling on Didymos sometime last week.

“Didymos poses no risk to our planet, but will come close enough to be observable by 1—2 m-diameter telescopes on Earth before and after the strike. AIM´s close-up view would provide ℠ground truth´ and observe the impact dynamics as well as the resulting crater, allowing ground-based observations and models to be evaluated,” they added. “Earlier this month, ESA issued a call for scientists to propose experiments that could be carried on the mission or performed on the ground to increase its return.”

ESA studies manager Andrés Gálvez said that the AIDA project is more than just an asteroid mission, but also a research platform to be utilized by a variety of scientists involved on the mission.

Likewise, Andy Cheng, the AIDA lead at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, which operates the DART module for the project — said that he believed that the mission had value in several different areas, including applied science and the utilization of asteroid resources.

“Researchers have until 15 March to express their interest,” the ESA said. “The experiment ideas can be anything that deals with hypervelocity impacts, planetary science, planetary defense, human exploration or innovation in spacecraft operations.”