Tue. Sep 17th, 2019

ESA and NASA missions to divert asteroids


The POT and the European Space Agency (ESA) finalize their DART and HERA missions, respectively, to divert the orbit of two asteroids that orbit between Earth and Mars and whose launch is scheduled for the summer of 2021.

As reported by ESA this Friday, the DART missions of the POT, the Italian CubeSat Licia and the ESA's HERA mission, collectively known as AIDA, are designed to deflect the orbit of the smaller of the two asteroids of 'Didymos', which orbit between Earth and Mars, through the impact of a ship. A second ship will study the crash site to obtain all possible data on the effects of the collision.

The spaceship of the POT, DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) is already being built, as its launch is scheduled for the summer of 2021, while the high-speed collision with its objective is scheduled for September 2022. Next to DART will fly the small Italian CubeSat called 'Lycia', which will record the moment of impact as a "selfie satellite".

A few years later, The HERA mission, which constitutes ESA's contribution to AIDA, will closely study the asteroid after impact, acquiring key data such as its mass. In addition, it will send a pair of CubeSats for the detailed study of the object and the first radar probe ever deployed on an asteroid.

Hera, whose launch is scheduled for 2024, will travel to the binary system of asteroids near Earth Didymos. Around the main body, 780 m in diameter (the size of a mountain) orbits a moon of 160 m, informally called "Didymoon", with a size similar to that of the great pyramid of Giza. This asteroid system is prototypical of the thousands that pose a risk of impact to our planet, since even the smallest of them would be large enough to destroy an entire city if it hit Earth.

Hera will aim at the smaller body of the system, which will become the smallest asteroid ever visited by a probe. This will map it in high resolution, with visual and thermal measurements, to obtain detailed maps of its surface. For their part, the CubeSats will collect complementary information, including first detailed investigation of the internal structure of an asteroid using low frequency radar tomography.

To publicize the current status of these missions, a group of experts working on them will meet on September 11 at the 'Ottagona Classroom' of the Baths of Diocletian in Rome, to announce the latest progress of the mission joint in the workshop 'Evaluation of the Impact and Deviation of an Asteroid' (AIDA).

During the workshop the current preparations for these missions and future plans will be discussed based on the presentations by the AIDA working groups, in order to identify those areas that need additional research and offer new opportunities for collaboration between the groups of investigation.

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