Protecting Earth From Asteroids Using Stardust
November 18, 2013

Protecting Earth From Asteroids Using Stardust

Lee Rannals for – Your Universe Online

A new research program is bringing experts together to help protect our planet from asteroids that could become catastrophes.

The Stardust program is the first research-based training network of its kind, bringing together some of the world’s best experts on asteroids and space debris. An open training school is being held at the University of Strathclyde this week in the first step to train the next generation of scientists, engineers and policy-makers for potentially hazardous asteroids.

“Stardust provides us with a fantastic opportunity to take forward the research capabilities we have and inspire the next generation of researchers in the field. It will push the boundaries of space research with innovative ideas and visionary concepts,” Professor Massimiliano Vasile of the University of Strathclyde’s Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, the scientist leading Stardust, said in a press release.

Vasile said asteroids and space debris represent a significant hazard for space and terrestrial assets. The threat from these hazards is becoming even clearer, especially with the increasing amount of space debris.

“But asteroids and space debris may also represent an opportunity if we had the technology to exploit them, for example debris recycling or asteroid mining. Stardust is bringing together experts from across the world to advance research and find solutions to these challenges,” Vasile added.

The week-long school opening up the Stardust program begins November 18. The researchers involved in the training are some of the best students in the world, according to Massimiliano. The scientists will be studying a variety of topics and attending lectures delivered by experts in aerospace engineering, physics, computer science and applied mathematics.

The school will be running a series of free evening talks open to the general public, the first of which will be delivered by Professor Jim Hough, from University of Glasgow. During this talk, Hough will be discussing gravitational waves. He is a member of the International LIGO Scientific Collaboration, which looks for gravitational waves using the Advanced LIGO detector.

Over 500,000 pieces of space debris are being tracked as they travel around Earth at speeds up to 17,500 mph. Not only does this debris cause a hazard for satellite communication technology, but also asteroids aboard spacecraft like the International Space Station. NASA says there are 500,000 pieces of debris the size of a marble or larger that are too small to be tracked, and millions more of smaller debris. Even debris this tiny could damage a spacecraft when traveling at a high velocity, so programs like this one are important for protecting future space missions.