Apollo Astronaut Rusty Schweickart Champions ESA’s Hera Mission for Planetary Defense

Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart at Noordwijk’s Walk of Space, where his handprint joined those other space luminaries, during his visit to the Netherlands in October 2019. (Credit: ESA)

NOORDWIJK, Netherlands (ESA PR) — Having spent much of the 21st century developing planetary defence techniques, Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart is a strong supporter of ESA’s proposed Hera mission. In general, when it comes to asteroid deflection, he says, two spacecraft are better than one.

(more…)

NASA Plans Space Telescope to Hunt for Killer Asteroids

Asteroids and comets visited by spacecraft. (Credit: Planetary Society – Emily Lakdawalla)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA announced on Monday that it is planning to spend $500 to $600 million to develop the NEO Surveillance Mission that would begin hunting for large asteroids and comets that could strike Earth.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, made the announcement during a meeting of the Planetary Science Advisory Committee held in Washington, D.C. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) would lead the project, which would launch around 2025.

(more…)

Europe, U.S. Teaming Up for Asteroid Deflection

ESA’s Asteroid Impact Mission is joined by two triple-unit CubeSats to observe the impact of the NASA-led Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology (DART) probe with the secondary Didymos asteroid, planned for late 2022. (Credit: ESA – ScienceOffice.org)

ROME (ESA PR) — Asteroid researchers and spacecraft engineers from the US, Europe and around the world will gather in Rome next week to discuss the latest progress in their common goal: an ambitious double-spacecraft mission to deflect an asteroid in space, to prove the technique as a viable method of planetary defence.

This combined mission is known as the Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment, or AIDA for short. Its purpose is to deflect the orbit of the smaller body of the double Didymos asteroids between Earth and Mars through an impact by one spacecraft. Then a second spacecraft will survey the crash site and gather the maximum possible data on the effect of this collision.

(more…)

NASA’s First Planetary Defense Technology Demonstration to Collide with Asteroid in 2022

DART mission (Credit: Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory)

by Justyna Surowiec
Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) – NASA’s first mission to demonstrate a planetary defense technique – will get one chance to hit its target, the small moonlet in the binary asteroid system Didymos. The asteroid poses no threat to Earth and is an ideal test target: measuring the change in how the smaller asteroid orbits about the larger asteroid in a binary system is much easier than observing the change in a single asteroid’s orbit around the Sun. Work is ramping up at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, and other locations across the country, as the mission heads toward its summer 2021 launch – and attempts to pull off a feat so far seen only in science fiction films.

(more…)











Earth vs. Asteroids: Humans Strike Back

SCI impactor on way to Ryugu asteroid (Credit: JAXA/The University of Tokyo/Kochi University/Rikkyo University/Nagoya University/Chiba Institute of Technology/Meiji University/The University of Aizu/AIST)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Incoming asteroids have been scarring our home planet for billions of years. This month humankind left our own mark on an asteroid for the first time: Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft dropped a copper projectile at very high speed in an attempt to form a crater on asteroid Ryugu. A much bigger asteroid impact is planned for the coming decade, involving an international double-spacecraft mission.

(more…)











SpaceX Wins NASA Launch Contract for Asteroid Redirect Test Mission

DART mission profile (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the agency’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, the first-ever mission to demonstrate the capability to deflect an asteroid by colliding a spacecraft with it at high speed – a technique known as a kinetic impactor.

The total cost for NASA to launch DART is approximately $69 million, which includes the launch service and other mission related costs.

(more…)











NASA Receives Significant Funding Increase with $21.5 Billion Budget

The Lunar Gateway (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has received a $21.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2019, which is $736.86 million above FY 2018 and $1.6 billion above the total requested by the Trump Administration.

The funding, which came more than four months into the fiscal year,  was included in an appropriations bill signed by President Donald Trump on Friday. NASA’s budget has been on an upward trajectory over the last few years. In FY 2018, the space agency received an $1.64 billion increase over the previous year.

(more…)











ESA Plans Mission to Smallest Asteroid Ever Visited

Hera at Didymos (Credit: ESA–ScienceOffice.org)

PARIS, 4 February 2019 (ESA PR) — ESA’s planet-defending Hera mission will set a new record in space. The asteroid investigator will not only be the first spacecraft to explore a binary asteroid system – the Didymos pair – but the smaller of these two worldlets, comparable in size to Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza, will become the smallest asteroid ever visited.

From afar, one asteroid looks much like another, until comparing them directly. Checking the well-known scale chart prepared by the Planetary Society of all asteroid and comets so far surveyed by spacecraft and the larger Didymos asteroid would form a modest dot, with its smaller moonlet struggling to make a single pixel.

(more…)











CubeSats Joining Hera Mission to Asteroid System

Hera at Didymos (Credit: ESA–ScienceOffice.org)

PARIS (ESA PR) — When ESA’s planned Hera mission journeys to its target binary asteroid system, it will not be alone. The spacecraft will carry two tiny CubeSats for deployment around – and eventual landing on – the Didymos asteroids. Each companion spacecraft will be small enough to fit inside a briefcase, as compared to the desk-sized Hera.

(more…)











GAO: NASA Asteroid Impact Mission Faces Technical, Schedule Challenges

DART spacecraft (Credit: JHU APL)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s ambitious effort to redirect a small asteroid has run into challenges with its financing, technology and foreign partner that could delay its launch and reduce its scientific return, according to a new assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) will impact the smaller of the binary near-Earth asteroid Didymos. Scientists will study how the asteroid is deflected to learn how similar systems might be used on potentially hazardous near-Earth objects.

(more…)











NASA’s First Asteroid Deflection Mission Enters Next Design Phase

DART spacecraft (Credit: JHU APL)

LAUREL, Md. (JHU APL PR) — The first-ever mission to demonstrate an asteroid deflection technique for planetary defense – the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which is being designed and would be built and managed by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory – is moving from concept development to preliminary design phase, following NASA’s approval on June 23.

(more…)











QinetiQ Studies How to Save World From Killer Asteroids

Asteroid Impact Mission spacecraft. (Credit: ESA/The Science Office Ltd.)
Asteroid Impact Mission spacecraft. (Credit: ESA/The Science Office Ltd.)

FARNBOROUGH, England — QinetiQ is examining what it would take to save the world from an asteroid impact, under an €840,000 [$937,398) contract awarded by the European Space Agency (ESA).

(more…)